Tennessee top court allows vote on gay marriage ban

Voters will be allowed to decide in November whether they want a constitutional ban on gay marriage in Tennessee, the state Supreme Court said in a unanimous decision filed today.


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Howard H. Vogel
Knoxville, Tennessee
Editor-in-Chief, TBALink


Court: TSC


Melody Fowler-Green, Abby R. Rubenfeld, and Anne C. Martin, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellants, American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee, Tennessee Equality Project, Beverly Robison Marrero, Bruce Barry, Jonathan Hines, Scott Hines, Nina Pacent, Renee Kasman, Larry Turner, and Tommie Brown.

Paul G. Summers, Attorney General and Reporter; Michael E. Moore, Solicitor General; Ann Louise Vix, Senior Counsel; Gina J. Barham, Deputy Attorney General; and Marnee L. Baker, Assistant Attorney General, Nashville Tennessee, for the appellees, Riley C. Darnell, Brook Thompson, Paul G. Summers, John S. Wilder, and James O. Naifeh. Benjamin W. Bull, Glen Lavy, Byron J. Babione, Heather Gebelin Hacker, Scottsdale, Arizona, Nathan W. Kellum, Memphis, Tennessee, and David L. Maddox, Nashville, Tennessee, for the Intervenors, sixty-seven members of the Tennessee House of Representatives and twenty-three members of the Tennessee Senate. Michael B. Bressman, Nashville, Tennessee, for Amicus Curiae, Public Notice Resource Center. Robyn E. Smith, Nashville, Tennessee, for Amicus Curiae, Tennessee Chapter of the National Organization for Women.


We assumed jurisdiction of this case pursuant to Tennessee Code Annotated section 16-3-201 to consider whether the Chancellor erred by refusing to declare Senate Joint Resolution 31unconstitutional and by refusing to enjoin the Secretary of State from placing a proposed amendment to the Tennessee Constitution on the November 7, 2006 ballot for a ratification vote. Having fully considered the record, the relevant authority, and the written and oral presentations of the parties -- and wishing to decide this constitutional matter, as we should, on the narrowest grounds possible -- we affirm the Chancellor's decision dismissing the complaint because Plaintiffs have failed to establish that they have standing to bring this lawsuit.



Court: TSC


Richard M. Carter, Paul H. Morris, and Brian K. Kelsey, Memphis, Tennessee, for Appellants, Forrest L. Whaley and Margaret Ann Whaley.

John D. Horne, Memphis, Tennessee, for the Appellees, Jim Ann Perkins, Albert Lewis Beshires, and Terry Lynn Beshires.

Judge: BIRCH

The Plaintiffs purchased from two of the Defendants a home located on a two-acre parcel of land that had been part of a larger parcel. The Plaintiffs later discovered that the two-acre parcel had been illegally subdivided from the larger parcel, and they filed suit alleging breach of contract, intentional misrepresentation, negligence per se, and breach of warranty of title. In addition to other damages, the Plaintiffs sought damages for emotional distress. A jury returned a verdict in favor of the Plaintiffs and awarded $170,000 as compensatory damages and an additional $5,000 as punitive damages. The Court of Appeals held, in pertinent part, that the Plaintiffs' claim for damages for emotional distress was barred by the one-year statute of limitations applicable to personal injury actions. We hold that the one-year personal injury statute of limitations does not apply to this case, and we therefore reverse that part of the intermediate court's judgment. We affirm all other aspects of the intermediate court's judgment and remand to the trial court for further proceedings.



Court: TCA


Stanley A. Kweller, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Noel Elizabeth (Staats) McKinnon.

Helen Sfikas Rogers, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellee, Richard Bradley Staats.

Judge: KOCH

This interlocutory appeal involves an interstate custody dispute over a nine-year-old child. The child's mother was designated the primary residential parent when her parents were divorced in 2000 in Florida. In 2002, the father filed a petition requesting the Florida court to change custody. While this petition was pending, the mother remarried, the mother moved to Massachusetts with her new husband and the parties' child, and the father moved to Tennessee. In June 2004, the Florida court granted the father's petition and designated him as the child's primary residential parent. As a result of this order, the child began living with the father in Tennessee and has lived in Tennessee ever since. In 2005, the Florida District Court of Appeal reversed the order changing custody and remanded the case to the Florida trial court for further proceedings. Thereafter, the father filed a petition in the Circuit Court for Davidson County seeking to modify the original Florida order designating the mother as the child's residential parent. The mother responded by filing an emergency petition in the Florida trial court to enforce the original custody order and by entering an appearance in the Tennessee proceeding to contest the Tennessee trial court's subject matter jurisdiction. Following a hearing and two conversations with the Florida trial court, the Tennessee trial court entered orders asserting jurisdiction over the father's modification petition and designating the father as the child's primary residential parent pending a final disposition of the father's petition. Both the trial court and this court granted the mother's application for a Tenn. R. App. P. 9 interlocutory appeal. We have concluded: (1) that the Florida trial court no longer has exclusive, continuing jurisdiction over the custody of this child because the child and her parents have not lived in Florida since 2003; (2) that Tennessee became the child's home state while she was living with her father during the pendency of the Florida appeal; (3) that the Tennessee trial court was not required to decline to exercise its jurisdiction to modify the original Florida custody decree; and (4) that the father was not required to return the child to her mother in Massachusetts following the reversal of the Florida trial court's change of custody order. Accordingly, we affirm the trial court's assertion of subject matter jurisdiction and remand the case for the consideration of the father's petition to modify custody.

This is a correction to an opinion originally filed on May 2, 2006


Court: TCCA


Frank L. Slaughter, Jr., Bristol, Tennessee (on appeal), and Michael J. LaGuardia, Kingsport, Tennessee (at trial), for the appellant, Rashad K. Sanders.

Paul G. Summers, Attorney General and Reporter; Leslie Price, Assistant Attorney General; H. Greeley Wells, Jr., District Attorney General; and Joseph Eugene Perrin, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.


The defendant, Rashad K. Sanders, pled guilty to one count of introduction of marijuana into a penal institution, a Class C felony. The Sullivan County Criminal Court sentenced him to a four-year sentence to be served in the Department of Correction as a Range I, standard offender. The defendant appeals, contending the trial court erred in denying him alternative sentencing. We affirm the judgment of the trial court.



Court: TCCA


Michael G. Hatmaker, Jacksboro, Tennessee, for the appellant, James S. Violette.

Paul G. Summers, Attorney General and Reporter; Blind Akrawi, Assistant Attorney General; William Paul Phillips, District Attorney General; and Michael O. Ripley, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.


This is a direct appeal from a conviction on a jury verdict of driving under the influence of an intoxicant (DUI), second offense, a Class A misdemeanor. The Defendant, James S. Violette, was sentenced to eleven months and twenty-nine days with forty-five days to be served in the county jail and the remainder on probation. He was fined $600, and his driver's license was suspended for two years. The Defendant now appeals, claiming that the evidence was insufficient to support his DUI conviction beyond a reasonable doubt because the State failed to prove he drove on a public road. We affirm the judgment of the trial court.



Legal News
Election 2006
TennBarU CLE Programs

Legal News
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Court decision requires translation of documents
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Read the full story
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Memphis program offers mentoring for small firm lawyers
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Peaceable Schools program trains teachers
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Election 2006
Early voting underway
Early voting kicked off today across Tennessee. In Shelby County, voters are being urged to take advantage of the option, due in part to a large ballot -- the biggest in the county's history -- and 1,500 new voting machines that are coming on line.
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House candidates debate issues
The four Democratic candidates for the House of Representatives' 42nd District square off in a debate at Tennessee Tech University.
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TennBarU CLE Programs
Summit designed to serve general practice attorneys
Take your practice to new heights with the essential knowledge, skills and trends you'll learn during the TBA's General Practice Summit, coming Aug. 24-26 in Nashville. Earn 15 hours CLE credit in fast-paced, 1-hour sessions on topics that are important to lawyers in general practice.
Find out more or register now

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