Judge Kurtz to retire, take senior status

Circuit Court Judge Walter Kurtz, 64, of Nashville will retire effective March 21 after more than 25 years, to become the state's fifth senior judge. Coupled with the recent appointment of Chancellor Richard H. Dinkins to the Court of Appeals, Kurtz's retirement leaves two openings in the Davidson County judicial ranks to be filled by the Judicial Selection Commission. Candidates interested in filling the Davidson County Chancery Court opening should apply to the Commission no later than Feb. 11. Those interested in Kurtz's seat need to apply by Feb. 13. Applicant questionnaires and Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI) background application forms are available on the Administrative Office of the Courts web site.
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Court: TSC



Court: TCCA


J. Thomas Marshall, Jr., District Public Defender; Nancy C. Meyer, Assistant District Public Defender, for the appellant, Michael Coppock.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Rachel West Harmon, Assistant Attorney General; David S. Clark, District Attorney General; Sandra Donaghy, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.


In June 2006 the defendant, Michael Coppock, was arrested for simple possession of marijuana, a Class A misdemeanor. As a condition of his bond, the defendant agreed to submit to random drug tests as administered by the local probation department. In November 2006, the defendant appeared before the Anderson County General Sessions Court and, after informing the court that he could not pass a random drug test, was jailed for forty-eight hours. The defendant appealed to the Criminal Court for Anderson County, which affirmed the general sessions court's bond conditions and imposed jail sentence. The defendant appeals the circuit court's ruling, contending that drug testing is an improper condition of bond and that the general sessions court erred by ordering the defendant to serve jail time. After reviewing the record, we conclude that the portion of the defendant's appeal concerning the propriety of random drug testing as a bond condition is not properly before this court. That portion of the appeal is therefore dismissed. However, because the general sessions court exceeded its authority by jailing the defendant, we grant the defendant a writ of certiorari and conclude that the sessions court violated the defendant's due process rights by ordering the jail sentence. Therefore, we dismiss the order to serve jail time imposed against the defendant.



Court: TCCA


Nat H. Thomas, Kingsport, Tennessee, for the appellant, Billy R. Shelley.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Preston Shipp, Assistant Attorney General; H. Greeley Wells, Jr., District Attorney General; William B. Harper, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.


In December 2003, a Sullivan County jury convicted the defendant of theft of property over $1,000, a class D felony. The defendant was sentenced as a Range II, multiple offender to eight years in the Department of Correction. This court affirmed the defendant's conviction and sentence on appeal. State v. Billy R. Shelley, No. E2004-00145-CCA-R3-CD, slip op. at 7 (Tenn. Crim. App. July 29, 2005), app. denied, (Tenn. Dec. 19, 2005). In February 2007, the trial court entered an order granting the defendant post-conviction relief and the right to file a delayed motion for new trial and a delayed appeal. The trial court denied the motion for a new trial, and this appeal follows. On appeal, the defendant alleges that the trial court erred in admitting certain hearsay statements into evidence during the defendant's trial. After reviewing the record, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.



Court: TCCA


Mark E. Stephens, District Public Defender; Anna L. Friedberg, Jessica M. Greene, and Mary Ellen Coleman, Assistant District Public Defenders, for the appellant, Blake Delaney Tallant.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Rachel West Harmon, Assistant Attorney General; Randall E. Nichols, District Attorney General; Steven C. Garrett, Marsha Mitchell, and Philip H. Morton, Assistant District Attorneys General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.


The defendant, Blake Delaney Tallant, was convicted by a Knox County jury of two counts of first degree felony murder (one count with the underlying felony of aggravated child abuse, the other count with the underlying felony of aggravated child neglect), one count of second degree murder, and two counts of aggravated child abuse (under the alternative theories of aggravated child abuse and aggravated child neglect), a Class A felony. The trial court dismissed the second degree murder charge, merged the two felony murder convictions, and sentenced the defendant to life in prison plus twenty-five years. The defendant appeals his convictions, arguing that (1) the evidence was insufficient to support his convictions; (2) the trial court improperly refused to excuse three jurors that the defendant challenged for cause; (3) the trial court abused its discretion by failing to sequester the jury; (4) the trial court improperly admitted expert testimony regarding the victim's injuries; (5) the aggravated child abuse and neglect statute under which the defendant was convicted was unconstitutionally vague; (6) the trial court improperly admitted evidence of the defendant's possession of methamphetamine; (7) the defendant's dual convictions for felony murder and the underlying felonies of aggravated child abuse and aggravated child neglect constitute double jeopardy; and (8) the trial court imposed an excessive sentence and improperly imposed consecutive sentences. After reviewing the record, we affirm the defendant's convictions and the sentences imposed on each count. However, we conclude that the trial court failed to merge the two convictions for aggravated child abuse based on alternative theories, and that the trial court did not follow proper procedures in imposing consecutive sentences. We therefore remand this case to the trial court for merger of the two aggravated child abuse convictions and for a new sentencing hearing regarding consecutive sentences.



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Legal News
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Read more in the Knoxville News Sentinel
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Having the fire marshal clear nonessential people from the Rutherford County Judicial Building was the only way to handle last week's overcrowded situation, the Daily News Journal says in an editorial, but better solutions are needed to the growing problems of a growing county. While the newspaper points out that the building was built in 1981 when the county's population was little more than one-third of the current 225,000 people, it says other solutions than new construction should be sought. It instead calls for shifting judges' schedules and other creative means of making more efficient use of the building's eight courtrooms.
Read the full editorial
Legislative News
Proposal would add elections for lieutenant governor, others
A proposal to amend the state constitution to have the lieutenant governor elected by popular vote appeared to have broad support today at a meeting of key state officials, the Knoxville News Sentinel reports. But partisan differences quickly appeared on whether other officials now chosen by the Legislature -- in particular the secretary of state -- should also be subject to a statewide election.
Read the full story
Governor calls for more openness in selection deliberations
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Read the full interview
Disciplinary Actions
Johnson City attorney placed on disability status
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Read the BPR release
Belafonte, civil rights lawyer speak at Vanderbilt
Artist and actor Harry Belafonte will give the keynote address at Vanderbilt's Martin Luther King Jr. Commemorative Series next Monday. On Wednesday, Constance Slaughter-Harvey will address the topic of equal justice in today's society. Slaughter-Harvey was the first African-American woman to graduate from the University of Mississippi Law School and integrate the Mississippi Bar Association. She now runs her own law firm specializing in civil rights cases.
For more information, visit the Vanderbilt web site
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Guide to pro bono assistance
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Download a copy today

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