Ash elected presiding judge of Court of the Judiciary

Circuit Court Judge Don Ash of the 16th Judicial District has been elected presiding judge of the Tennessee Court of the Judiciary. Ash succeeds Chancellor Steven Stafford of Dyersburg who has been a member of the Court of the Judiciary since 1999 and was presiding judge since 2004.
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Court: TCA


M. Keith Siskin, Murfreesboro, TN, for Appellant

Brad W. Hornsby, Jonathan L. Miley, Murfreesboro, TN, for Appellee


This case involves a child custody dispute between a mother and a grandmother. The child's parents agreed to transfer temporary custody of the child to the grandmother when the child was three years old. The parents were divorcing at the time, using illegal drugs, and financially incapable of providing for the child. Still, the child would stay at her mother's home every other weekend, during breaks from school, and for some time during the summer months. The mother eventually remarried and had two sons. When her daughter was nearly ten years old, the mother filed a petition to regain custody from the grandmother. The trial court determined that the mother was entitled to a presumption of "superior parental rights," and therefore she could not be denied custody of the child unless the grandmother could demonstrate a risk of substantial harm to the child upon a change of custody. Finding no risk of substantial harm, the trial court awarded custody to the mother. The grandmother appeals, contending that the trial court erred in applying the presumption of "superior parental rights." Alternatively, the grandmother claims that the court erred in finding no risk of substantial harm to the child. For the following reasons, we affirm.


Court: TCA


Mitchell D. Moskovitz, Jason A. Creech, Memphis, TN, for Appellant

Rachael Emily Putnam, Kay Farese Turner, Memphis, TN, for Appellee


The parents, who have three minor sons, were divorced in 2003, and they entered an agreed parenting plan whereby the mother was designated the primary residential parent and the father was ordered to pay child support. The father experienced an increase in income the following year, and the mother petitioned the chancery court for an increase in his child support obligation, to which the father agreed. In early 2006, the father left his job for a similar job with his stepfather and brother which provided him with less income. The father petitioned the chancery court for a downward modification of his child support obligation, citing his decreased income. The mother then sent the father a notice of her intent to relocate from Memphis to Franklin, Tennessee, because of an employment opportunity. After hearings, the chancery court denied the mother's petition for relocation. The chancery court instructed the parties' attorneys to calculate child support according to the Tennessee Child Support Guidelines using income amounts that it had imputed to the mother and father, and without providing any basis as to how it had determined these figures. At a later hearing, the chancery court set a child support amount in excess of what the parties had determined according to the Tennessee Child Support Guidelines, which amount was ordered to include the father's contribution to the children's private school tuition. The chancery court did not include the child support worksheets in its order, nor did it provide written findings supporting its decision to deviate. We reverse and remand for further proceedings.


Court: TCCA


Mack Garner, District Public Defender (at trial); and J. Liddell Kirk, Knoxville, Tennessee (on appeal), for the Appellant, John Payne Russell.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General & Reporter, Jennifer L. Bledsoe, Assistant Attorney General; Michael L. Flynn, District Attorney General; and Tammy Harrington, Assistant District Attorney General, for the Appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: WITT

The defendant, John Payne Russell,1 pleaded guilty in Blount County Circuit Court to aggravated assault, see T.C.A. Section 39-13-102 (2006), and aggravated burglary, see id. Section 39-14-403, on September 8, 2003. He received a three-year, suspended sentence for each count to run concurrently, and as a condition of his plea agreement, he was to complete the Steps program. On October 31, 2003, a violation of probation warrant was filed because the defendant was arrested for public intoxication, see id. Section 39-17-310, and he failed to complete the Steps program. The court ordered the defendant to serve 90 days in jail and then to return to probation. After serving jail time, the defendant enrolled in and completed an eight-month in-patient drug treatment program, House of Hope in Indiana. He then returned to supervised probation, and another probation violation warrant was filed July 18, 2006 and alleged that the defendant had used illegal drugs, missed appointments, and failed to pay probation fees and court costs. After an evidentiary hearing on July 31, 2006, the trial court revoked the defendant's probation and ordered him to serve his sentence in confinement. The defendant appeals the revocation, and we affirm the trial court's order.


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