U.S. Supreme Court addresses federal sentencing guidelines

In two important decisions today, the Supreme Court gave federal trial judges much greater latitude to deviate from federal sentencing guidelines. One decision allows judges to weigh the controversial disparity between guideline sentences for crack and powder cocaine offenses in giving defendants a below-guideline sentence, and the other says that judges may deviate from the guidelines without having to demonstrate that "extraordinary circumstances" required sentencing outside the guidelines. Law.com examines the broader issues.
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Court: TSC



Court: TCA


Michael H. Sneed, Nashville, Tennessee, for appellant.

Joseph M. Huffaker and Mary Beth Haltom, Nashville, Tennessee, for appellee.


Plaintiff fell in a puddle of oil in the parking lot near the Save-a-Lot Market. The Trial Court granted the market and the owner of the parking lot summary judgment. On appeal, we affirm.



Court: TCA


Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter and L. Vincent Williams, Deputy Attorney General, for the appellant, The Tennessee Bureau of Tenncare.

Helen Sfikas Rogers and Lawrence J. Kamm, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellee, Thomas Tanner.


The Tennessee Bureau of Tenncare filed a claim pursuant to Tennessee Code Annotated section 71-5- 116(c) to recover medical benefits paid on behalf of Decedent from Decedent's estate. The trial court dismissed the action as time-barred under Tennessee Code Annotated sections 30-2-307(a)(1) and 310(b). The Bureau appeals, asserting its right to recover is not subject to the limitations period prescribed in Title 30. We affirm.



Court: TCCA


Scott Lovelace, Ripley, Tennessee, for the appellant, Justin Bradley Hanie; Kari Weber, Assistant Public Defender, Somerville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Jonathan Anthony Morris; and Rebecca S. Mills, Ripley, Tennessee, for the appellant, Judson F. Ouzts.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Sophia S. Lee, Assistant Attorney General; Michael Dunavant, District Attorney General; and Tracey Brewer-Walker, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.


A jury convicted the Defendants, Justin Bradley Haynie, Jonathan Anthony Morris, and Judson F. Ouzts, of one count of possession of over .5 grams of cocaine with the intent to deliver, a Class B felony, and one count of possession of alprazolam with the intent to deliver, a Class D felony. Defendants Haynie and Morris were both sentenced to eight years and ten months for the cocaine conviction and to a concurrent, two-year sentence for the alprazolam conviction. Defendant Ouzts was sentenced to eight years for the cocaine conviction; in all other regards, his sentence was the same. Each Defendant was ordered to complete his sentence through the Community Corrections Program after serving part of the sentence in the county jail. In this appeal, the Defendants collectively raise three issues: (1) whether the trial court erred by denying the Defendants' pretrial motions to suppress the evidence recovered from a search of Defendant Ouzts's vehicle; (2) whether the evidence was sufficient to support their convictions; and (3) whether the State's closing argument was improperly prejudicial. Defendant Ouzts raises two additional issues: (1) whether the trial court erred in allowing testimony amounting to a legal conclusion; and (2) whether a juror's bias required a new trial. Following our review, we affirm the judgments of the trial court on the cocaine convictions, but we reverse the judgments entered on the alprazolam convictions and remand for resentencing and proceedings consistent with this opinion.



Court: TCCA


J. Liddell Kirk, Knoxville, Tennessee (on appeal); and Mack Garner, District Public Defender (at probation revocation hearing), for the appellant, Danny Ray Thornhill.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Leslie E. Price, Assistant Attorney General; Mike Flynn, District Attorney General; and Ellen Berez, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.


The Defendant, Danny Ray Thornhill, appeals from the order of the Blount County Circuit Court revoking his probation. In May of 2006, the Defendant pled guilty to aggravated assault, a Class C felony, and was sentenced as a Range I, standard offender to three years in the Department of Correction. His sentence was suspended, and he was placed on supervised probation. Approximately four months later, the trial court issued a violation of probation warrant. After a hearing, the trial court found that the Defendant had violated the conditions of his probation and ordered that his original three-year sentence be served in confinement. On appeal, the Defendant argues that the trial court abused its discretion by finding that he had violated the terms of his probation. Following our review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.


One Person Simultaneously Serving as Fentress County Deputy Sheriff and Bus Driver for Fentress

TN Attorney General Opinions

Date: 2007-12-10

Opinion Number: 07-159


Constitutionality of temporal limitation on expenditures

TN Attorney General Opinions

Date: 2007-12-10

Opinion Number: 07-160



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Libby drops appeal
Former White House aide I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby is dropping his appeal in the CIA leak case, his attorney said today. President Bush commuted Libby's 30-month jail sentence in July. Libby paid a $250,000 fine and must serve two years' probation. Libby remains a convicted felon, but Bush could issue a full pardon as his administration winds down. Libby's lawyer said the "burden on his young family of continuing to pursue his complete vindication are too great to ask them to bear."
Read the AP story on CNN.com
New leadership at Nashville Bar, awards given
W. Scott Sims succeeded Lela Hollabaugh as the 2008 president of the Nashville Bar Association at its annual meeting on Friday. Trey Harwell is the new president-elect. New board members for 2008 are: Anne Arney, Martha Boyd, Ana Escobar, Stacey Garrett, Robert Mendes and Jim Weatherly.

The Hon. Barbara Haynes was given the John C. Tune Award; Derek Jumper and Clark Spoden received the Joseph G. Cummings Sr Pro Bono Volunteer of the Year; the NBJ Article of the Year was written by C. Dewees Berry IV; and the NBJ Contributor of the Year was Kelly Frey. President's Awards were given to Marnie Huff and Ed Lanquist; Cathy Caster won the CLE Excellence Award; Emily Shouse won the YLD Leadership Award; and Allison LaRue, Cyndi Parson and Erin Palmer Polly were given the YLD Enterprise Award.

Odom sentenced to death a third time
After nearly 10 hours of deliberations Saturday, a Criminal Court jury became the third group of Richard L. Odom's peers to render a death verdict in the 1991 rape and murder of an elderly woman in a Midtown parking garage, the Commercial Appeal reports. Odom, 46, had been sentenced to death twice for the rape and stabbing of 77-year-old Mina Ethyl Johnson. But the Tennessee Supreme Court overturned each of the death sentences.

Civil rights cold case bill stalled, proponents say
A bill to beef up investigations into unsolved murders from the civil rights era has stalled and supporters are not as confident as they were last summer. The bill is named after Emmett Till, a black teenager who was murdered in Mississippi in 1955 after being accused of whistling at a white woman. His killers were never convicted. What's happening with the bill, observers say, is a case study in how even the most popular legislation can get caught up in Washington gridlock.
Read the AP story in the Daily News Journal
Videotape investigation gets underway
The Justice Department and CIA announced a joint inquiry Saturday into the spy agency's destruction of videotapes of interrogations of two suspected terrorists, the Associated Press reports.
The Commercial Appeal has more
New judgeship in Wilson County on hold
Members of the Wilson County Commission's Finance Committee decided not to guarantee more than $200,000, at least for now, for a new General Sessions judgeship in Wilson County, the
Tennessean reports
Governor to administer oath to Irvine
Gov. Phil Bredesen will administer the oath of office to Criminal Court Judge Kenneth F. Irvine Jr., at 5:30 p.m., Wednesday in the Criminal Court Division II Courtroom in Knoxville. Prior to his appointment, Irvine was an assistant district attorney for Knox County.

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Teleseminars offer quality, convenient CLE
Still need an hour or two of CLE credit to meet your 2007 requirements? The TBA's TennbarU has a series of convenient, lunch time TeleSeminars this month to help you out. Coming up tomorrow (Dec. 11) is An Update on Basic Legal Ethics from Chattanooga lawyer Hugh Kendall. On Thursday, Paul Hayes from the TBA Tax Section will present an update on the Tennessee Investor Services Act passed by the legislature this year and on Dec. 18, Nashville trial consultant Brad Bradshaw will talk on Ethical Considerations for Witness Preparation and Jury Selection. TBA members can use the prepaid CLE credits that come with their Complete Membership to take these courses for free. All of the programs begin at noon Central Time.

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