News

Two New CLE Challenges Available

Two new programs have been added to the Tennessee Supreme Court Fantasy Challenge, which allows you to predict the outcome of cases while earning CLE credit. Each program provides access to lower court decisions, briefs and case summaries. Start playing now!

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Justice Breyer Discusses Oral Arguments, Ted Kennedy

Who would Justice Stephen Breyer like to have dinner with? The U.S. Supreme Court member sat down with NPR for a chat (the answer in Alexander Hamilton) while promoting his new book, “The Court and the World.” Justice Breyer discusses what he learned from working with Sen. Ted Kennedy and how the justices approach questions in oral arguments. “It's horrible for the poor lawyers! Because we do not think that that half hour, each side, is for them to make their argument,” Justice Breyer said. “We think we know the argument.”

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9 Sworn In at TBA Supreme Court Admission Ceremony

Nine Tennessee attorneys were admitted to practice today before the U.S. Supreme Court at the 32nd Annual TBA Academy and Admission Ceremony in Washington, D.C. TBA President Bill Harbison led the activities leading up to admission of: Rebecca Wells Demaree of Cornelius & Collins in Nashville; Calvin Craig Fitzhugh of Ripley; incoming TBA president Jason H. Long of Lowe, Yeager and Brown in Knoxville; Shane Kelvin McNeill of Tellus Law in Thompson’s Station; C. Creed McGinley of Savannah; Charles McIver Molder of Mounger and Molder in Columbia; J. Britt Phillips of Sutter O’Connell in Franklin; Steven Wilson of The Steve Wilson Firm in Memphis; and Rachel Lea Zamata of Nashville. See more photos.

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Criminal Procedure Rule Concerning Illegal Sentences Clarification

The Tennessee Supreme Court today clarified the meaning and purpose of Tennessee Rule of Criminal Procedures 36.1, which was adopted in 2011 and outlines a procedure for challenging illegal sentences. The Court said Rule 36.1 does not expand the scope of relief for illegal sentence claims and to obtain relief under the rule, a moving party must show that the challenged sentence is “illegal,” and that the challenged sentence has not expired. Based upon this clarification, the Supreme Court unanimously concluded the defendant in State v. Wooden failed to show that his challenged sentence was an illegal sentence and that the defendant’s sentence in State v. Brown expired several years before he sought relief under Rule 36.1. Read the opinions in State v. Wooden and State v. Brown, authored by Justice Cornelia A. Clark.

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TBJ: Summary Judgment Comes Full Circle

With the Rye v. Women’s Care Center of Memphis MPLLC decision, Tennessee now has its own “summary judgment trilogy”: Byrd, Hannan and Rye. Solicitor General Andrée Blumstein explains in the December Tennessee Bar Journal how Rye brings the state’s summary judgment jurisprudence full circle, rejecting as problematic the idiosyncratic Hannan standard and reinstating as tried-and-true the familiar federal summary judgment standard. Also in the issue, University of Tennessee law professor Michael J. Higdon shows you how to write succinctly, to better communicate with the impatient, skeptical legal reader.

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AOC Names Harmon New General Counsel

Tennessee Attorney General senior counsel Rachel Harmon will join the Administrative Office of the Courts next month as general counsel for the judiciary. Harmon comes to the AOC after nine years with the AG's office, where she served in the criminal appellate division and the civil litigation and state services division. As general counsel of the AOC, she will head the legal division, oversee administrative functions and support trial and appellate judges across the state.

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6th Circuit: Ex-Deputy Not Entitled to Summary Judgment

The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed a ruling by Judge Harry S. Mattice that said former Bradley County deputy Dustin Patrick was not entitled to summary judgment on the basis of qualified immunity, The Times Free Press reports. Friday's ruling means the case will go to trial, but no trial date has been set. Patrick shot Armetta Foster in 2011 after she allegedly slashed him with a knife and drove off in his patrol car; Foster later died from the gunshot wounds. Foster’s father filed a federal civil lawsuit claiming that Patrick used aggressive force.

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Study says Roberts Favors Justices When Assigning Major Decisions

A new study says U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. plays favorites when assigning the court’s most important decisions. “Not surprisingly, Roberts calls his own number more than anyone else’s and assigns the second-highest number to Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, the pivotal justice on the ideologically divided court,” The Washington Post writes about the new study published in the Harvard Law Review. The article also says Roberts pays "little regard to seniority" in assigning major decisions. 

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Convicted 'Black Widow' Wants Baumgartner Files Opened

A Knoxville woman who was charged with killing her first husband and later convicted of killing her second husband is trying to win a new trial by pointing to the misdeeds of former Knox County Criminal Court Judge Richard Baumgartner, the Knoxnews reportsRaynella Dossett Leath had been charged with killing her first husband, Knox County District Attorney General Ed Dossett, in 1992, but that case was dropped when she was convicted of fatally shooting David Leath. Baumgartner had denied Leath’s motion for new trial just before stepping down from the bench. She is now seeking Baumgartner's entire Tennessee Bureau of Investigation file to bolster her case.

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Court Grants Metro Nashville Standing in Suit

The Tennessee Supreme Court's unanimous ruling grants Metropolitan Government of Nashville standing in its suit filed against the local Board of Zoning Appeals (BZA) regarding the BZA’s 2012 decision to deny permits to install a digital billboard. Landowners and a company that leased the property said Metro Nashville lacked legal standing to initiate the suit. The Court determined Metro Nashville had legal standing and “can be considered a party that possibly could be ‘aggrieved’ by the actions of the board.” The case now returns to chancery court. Read the opinion authored by Justice Jeffrey S. Bivins.

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Supreme Court to Hear Oral Arguments in Memphis

The Tennessee Supreme Court will hear oral arguments at the University of Memphis Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law in two cases -- one criminal (State of Tennessee v. Michael Smith) and one civil (Donriel A. Borne v. Celadon Trucking Services, Inc.) – on Nov. 5, 1:30 p.m. in the Historic Courtroom.

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Columnist: Keep an Eye on Politics of the Court

Justice Gary Wade’s dissent in last week’s summary judgment decision in the Michelle Rye v. Women's Care Center of Memphis case may point to a political swing in the court, Knoxville News Sentinel columnist Tom Humphrey writes in his blog. Writing before his resignation took effect, Wade quoted the Federalist Papers and the need for the judiciary to be vigilant in defending its independence from the other branches of government, which Humphrey notes have become increasingly business friendly. Read Wade’s full dissent and the court’s opinion.

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Supreme Court Denies Tire Company Dismissal Request

The Tennessee Supreme Court denied Bridgestone entities’ request to dismiss a case because of lost evidence and a request for summary judgment. The decision affirmed a trial court ruling in the case in which a woman’s car was totaled in an accident after it appeared that a tire may have failed and the wrecking service later destroyed her car. The Court also reviewed the defendants’ additional reasons for requesting summary judgment, conducting the analysis under the Court’s recent opinion in Rye v. Women’s Care Center of Memphis. Justice Gary R. Wade wrote a concurring opinion, in which he disagreed with the new summary judgment standard, but reached the same conclusion under a different analysis. Read the opinion authored by Justice Jeffrey S. Bivins.  

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ACS Nashville Chapter Presents Supreme Court Preview

The American Constitution Society's Nashville chapter today hosted its annual U.S. Supreme Court preview at Waller. More than 100 lawyers attended the presentation by Elizabeth Wydra, chief counsel at the Constitutional Accountability Center, previewing cases to be heard in the 2015-16 Supreme Court term. The Court’s November sitting will begin on Nov. 2 and will include cases involving legislative districts and the principle of “one-person, one-vote” in Evenwel v. Abbott and the constitutionality of public-sector “agency shop” agreements in Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association. Others involve mandatory life sentences without parole for juvenile offenders, abortion access and ACA-related coverage issues for contraceptives.

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Panel Picks 3 Candidates to Fill Supreme Court Seat

Thomas Radcliffe “Skip” Frierson of Morristown, Robert H. Montgomery Jr. of Kingsport and Roger Amos Page of Medina have been picked as the top three candidates for consideration to fill the vacant Tennessee Supreme Court seat. Meeting Tuesday in Nashville, the Governor’s Council for Judicial Appointments recommended the three to Gov. Bill Haslam. All three currently serve on the intermediate appellate courts. Montgomery and Page are on the Court of Criminal Appeals while Frierson sits on the Court of Appeals. Read more about the nominees from the AOC.

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Supreme Court Applicants Face Interviews, Public Hearings

Nine applicants for the Tennessee Supreme Court vacancy -- created in September by Justice Gary R. Wade's retirement -- participated in a public hearing and interview process today, The Tennessean reports. The Governor’s Council for Judicial Appointments will send three recommendations to Gov. Bill Haslam. "Most of our Supreme Court judges historically have had prior appellate experience," said Nashville attorney David Raybin. "That is what I think they would want to look at. You can look at the person’s track record as a judge. That gives you some idea of what that person might do while on the Supreme Court."

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Group Challenges Health Care Overhaul Origination

An appeal filed today by the Pacific Legal Foundation will present yet another challenge to President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul, the Associated Press reports. The appeal, filed in the U.S. Supreme Court on behalf of a small-business owner, says that the law violates the provision of the Constitution that requires tax-raising bills to originate in the House of Representatives. The foundation said the health care overhaul is expected to generate roughly $500 billion in new taxes by 2019.

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Deadline Near for TBA Academy and Admission Ceremony

You can still take part in the TBA Academy and U.S. Supreme Court Admission Ceremony, but the deadline is almost here. Sign up by Monday so you don’t miss this opportunity to be admitted to practice before the U.S. Supreme Court and network with some of the nation’s leading appellate practitioners. The Academy will take place Dec. 1-3 in Washington, D.C.

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Court: Exceptional Circumstances May Justify Denying Relief From Void Judgment

The Tennessee Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that a void judgment may be challenged at any time, but a trial court need not grant relief from a void judgment if exceptional circumstances exist. The case involved a judgment that had terminated a parent’s rights several years ago. The petitioner argued that the judgment should be voided because she had not received notice of the petition to terminate her parental rights. A trial court agreed with her and the decision was upheld in the Court of Appeals. The Supreme Court granted the appeal to determine whether relief must be granted in every case when a court determines that a judgment is void. Read the full opinion.

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Ohio, Arkansas Halt Executions; Scalia Predicts Death of Death Penalty

Ohio and Arkansas have become the latest in a string of states putting the death penalty on hold because of issues with the drugs needed to carry out the lethal injections. Ohio Gov. John Kasich has delayed executions until at least 2017, while prison officials try to secure supplies of lethal injection drugs, The Johnson City Press reports. The Arkansas Supreme Court ruled Tuesday that a lower-court judge overstepped his jurisdiction by halting the executions of eight death row inmates, but the high court immediately granted its own stay to give the inmates time to challenge a new state law that bars Arkansas from disclosing its execution-drug supplier, according to an Associated Press report. Meanwhile, in an address at the University of Minnesota Law School, Justice Antonin Scalia said Tuesday it "wouldn't surprise" him to see the U.S. Supreme Court invalidate the death penalty after moving in recent years to restrict its application.

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Hooker Asks Supreme Court to Intervene in 'Aid-in-Dying' Case

John Jay Hooker is appealing to the state's highest court to allow his doctors to prescribe him life-ending medication without facing criminal consequences, the Tennessean reports. Hooker, who has said he is dying of cancer, says he does not have time to wait for the normal appeals process and wants the Tennessee Supreme Court to step in and take the case from the intermediate court, the Tennessee Court of Appeals. "This case involves the imminent death of a party (Hooker)," the appeal, filed Tuesday by Nashville attorneys Hal Hardin and Cynthia Chappell, reads. "A terminally ill Tennessee citizen's interest in his or her own manner of death is of utmost personal and public importance." 

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Event to Honor Justice Terry Sanford is Next Week

The U.S. District Court Historical Society and the East Tennessee Historical Society will host a symposium to honor former Associate U.S. Supreme Court Justice and Eastern District Judge of Tennessee Edward Terry Sanford on Oct. 29 at 4 p.m. The speaker will be Dr. John M. Scheb II, a professor in the University of Tennessee Department of Political Science. The event will be at the East Tennessee History Center, 601 S. Gay Street in Knoxville. See the invitation for more details.

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Portrait Unveiling Planned for Retired Judge Tipton

A portrait unveiling ceremony for retired Court of Criminal Appeals Judge Joseph M. Tipton will take place Oct. 30 in the Tennessee Supreme Court courtroom in Knoxville. Tipton was appointed to the court in 1990 and served as presiding judge from 1996 through 2014. Friends, family and colleagues are invited to the ceremony, which will be held at 3 p.m. A reception will follow.

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Court Holds Oral Arguments in 2 Cases

The U.S. Supreme Court issued orders from its Oct. 9 conference yesterday, but did not add any new cases to its docket for this term. The court also heard oral arguments yesterday in the cases of Montgomery v. Louisiana and Hurst v. Florida. In the first case, the court is considering whether states should be forced to retroactively apply a ban on mandatory sentences to juveniles convicted decades ago. The Tennessean reports that the justices appeared skeptical of their standing to decide the matter as well as the merits of the case. SCOTUSblog has more details.

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9 Apply for Seat on Tennessee Supreme Court

The Governor’s Council for Judicial Appointments will inverview nine applicants on Oct. 27 for the Tennessee Supreme Court vacancy created by the retirement of Justice Gary R. Wade. The applicants are: Matthew P. Cavitch of Eads, Thomas Radcliffe Frierson of Morristown, Mark A. Fulks of Johnson City, Ted M. Hayden of Gallatin, Robert David Meyers of Memphis, Herbert S. Moncier of Knoxville, Robert H. Montgomery Jr. of Kingsport, Roger Amos Page of Medina, and Larry Scroggs of Germantown. The interview will include a public meeting at 9 a.m. at the Legislative Plaza, 301 6th Ave N.

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