Tennessee's Judicial Selection Plan draws comments

In the aftermath of the Tennessee General Assembly's inaction that put the Tennessee Judicial Selection Commission into a one-year wind down towards extinction, the debate over the best way to elect Tennessee's appeals judges continues. The New York Times offers an analysis which says that elected judges are a rather unique American phenomenon. The Commercial Appeal says that retention elections with changes in how vacancies are filled may be the best way but counsels deliberate action. The Wall Street Journal editorializes but misses the mark on a few facts as TBA President Marcy Eason points out in a response submitted this afternoon.
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Court: TCA


Frank A. Johnstone, Kingsport, Tennessee, for the Appellants, Katie O. Mitchell and Marvin Lee Silcox.

Ronald L. Grimm and Mary L. Abbott, Knoxville, Tennessee, for the Appellee, Clark Power Services, Inc.

Judge: LEE

The issue presented in this case is whether the trial court abused its discretion by not granting the defendants' motion to set aside a default judgment entered against them. After careful review, we find the default judgment was improperly granted and, therefore, should have been set aside. Accordingly, this case is remanded to the trial court for a hearing on the sworn account filed by the plaintiff.



Court: TCA


C. Jerome Teel, Jr., Jackson, TN for Appellant

Lewis Cobb, Jackson, TN (Court of Appeals oral argument only), for Appellant

David C. Scruggs, Memphis, TN, for Appellee, Jackson Bond, et al


Several taxpayers appealed Madison County's valuation of the taxpayers' limited partnership property to the Tennessee State Board of Equalization. The administrative law judge scheduled a pre-hearing conference, with notice being sent to the taxpayers and Madison County. Some confusion arose, and no representative for Madison County attended the conference. The administrative law judge entered a default judgment against Madison County, and Madison County timely filed a petition to reconsider with the administrative law judge. The administrative law judge took no action on the petition, and after twenty days, the petition was deemed denied by operation of law. Madison County then failed to appeal the administrative law judge's denial of the petition to reconsider within thirty days to the Assessment Appeals Commission. The Assessment Appeals Commission thereafter issued the Official Certificates of Assessment. Madison County filed a motion to reconsider the Official Certificates with both the administrative law judge and the Board of Equalization, seeking relief under Rule 60.02 of the Tennessee Rules of Civil Procedure. The administrative law judge denied the motion, but the Board of Equalization granted relief and remanded the matter to the administrative law judge. The taxpayer defendants then filed a petition with the Board of Equalization, challenging the Board's order setting aside the default judgment. The taxpayers filed a petition for review in chancery court in Madison County. Thereafter, the Board held a hearing, reversed its prior order, and reinstated the default judgment against Madison County. Madison County filed a petition for review in chancery court in Madison County pursuant to Tenn. Code Ann. section 4-5-322, seeking review of the Board’s reinstatement of the default judgment. The chancery court granted the taxpayers' motion for summary judgment. Madison County appeals, and we affirm.



Court: TCA


Jerry H. Summers, Chattanooga, Tennessee and Jeffery A. Billings, Cleveland, Tennessee for the Appellant, Life Care Home Health, Inc.

Timothy L. Warnock and James N. Bowen, Nashville, Tennessee and Gary R. Patrick, Chattanooga, Tennessee for the Appellee, Tony E. Oglesby.


Tony E. Oglesby ("Plaintiff") sued Life Care Home Health, Inc. ("Defendant") for breach of contract. After a bench trial, the Trial Court entered an order finding and holding, inter alia, that the parties had a binding contract, that the contract is not ambiguous, that the word "less" in the contract means "to exclude", and that under the contract Plaintiff was entitled to a judgment in the amount of $2,329,638.20. Defendant appeals to this Court. We affirm.



Court: TCCA


Robert H. Hassell and Gene Honea, Franklin Tennessee, for the appellant, Jamiel D. Williams.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Preston Shipp, Assistant Attorney General; and Derek K. Smith, Assistant Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: WITT

The defendant, Jamiel D. Williams, appeals his Williamson County Circuit Court conviction of first degree murder, alleging that there was insufficient evidence to prove premeditation. We hold that the evidence presented at trial was sufficient and affirm the judgment of the trial court. The judgment is modified because it incorrectly classifies the sentence as a Class A felony.



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Legal News
With selection commission's future in doubt, nominations still needed
The deadline for expressing interest in being one of the three people nominated by the TBA to serve on the Tennessee Judicial Selection Commission is May 31. The TBA will offer the names of three candidates to fill a slot on the selection commission from either East or West Tennessee. Incumbent Jeff Fiebelman has indicated he will not seek reappointment. The TBA provides the three nominees to the Speaker of the House under the Tennessee Plan for merit selection, evaluation and retention. The future of the Tennessee Plan, and specifically the Tennessee Judicial Selection Commission, is somewhat in doubt, since the Tennessee General Assembly failed to extend the life of the commission under Tennessee's government entity review law, also known as the sunset law. Thus, the commission will go into "wind down," meaning unless there is legislative action during the 2009 session of the General Assembly, the group will go out of existence on June 30, 2009. The candidates should provide a letter expressing interest, and a resume, to TBA Executive Director Allan F. Ramsaur.
Details are here
Davidson now requires less paperwork for marriage
Davidson County will no longer require couples to produce a Social Security card or a valid passport and visa to obtain a marriage license since County Clerk John Arriola dropped the requirement Thursday. A recent state attorney general's opinion sided with a couple who sued him for refusing to issue them a marriage license.
The Jackson Sun carried this AP story
New security measures begin at Sevier courthouse
In an editorial, The Mountain Press praises new security measures at the Sevier County Courthouse, but points out that they do not go as far as many other courthouses. The upgrades don't include metal detectors, but do include security cameras and card-scan locks at certain offices to restrict access. "Let's hope they work," the paper says.
Read the editorial
Rutherford may expand old instead of building new
The Rutherford County Commission's Property Management Committee on Thursday approved a three-month study into the expansion of the Judicial Building on the Public Square, and recommended approval of the expansion of the sheriff's office. The move was inspired when commissioners realized they might be able to save $33 million by expanding the building instead of building a new justice center for $63 million. The county also plans to spend $8-$10 million to expand the sheriff's office with a courtroom for preliminary hearings.
The Daily News Journal has more
Last 'Brown v. Board' plaintiff dies
Zelma Henderson, a Kansas beautician who was the sole surviving plaintiff in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, died last week in Topeka. She was 88. When Henderson's children were young they were bused to an all-black school across town. As she told The Boston Globe in 2004, "I knew what integration was and how well it worked and couldn't understand why we were separated here in Topeka."
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Wilder and Buck leave legislature disappointed with partisanship
Former Lt. Gov. John Wilder, 86, and Rep. Frank Buck, 65, reflected on the changes they saw across their terms in interviews with The Associated Press in the closing days of the 105th General Assembly, which ended last week. Chief among the lawmakers' concerns was the partisanship. "It seems to be more a battle of power," Buck said.
The Tennessean reports
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