Public questions judicial impartiality toward funders

Two recent surveys show the public overwhelmingly doubts that judges can be impartial in cases involving campaign funders. A USA TODAY/Gallup Poll this month found 89 percent of those surveyed believe the influence of campaign contributions on judges' rulings is a problem, while a just-released Justice at Stake/Harris Interactive Poll also finds that 81 percent of respondents say judges should not decide whether they can fairly hear a case, but should have another judge weigh the facts when a judge's neutrality is challenged. The poll comes as the Supreme Court prepares to consider when judges whose campaign supporters appear before them should step aside.

Read more at the Justice at Stake web site

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Court: TSC


Court: TSC


J. Thomas Marshall, Jr., District Public Defender, Clinton, Tennessee, for the appellee, David Harold Hanson.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General & Reporter; Michael E. Moore, Solicitor General; Leslie E. Price, Assistant Attorney General; Dave Clark, District Attorney General; and Jan Hicks, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellant, State of Tennessee.

Judge: WADE

The defendant, charged with two counts of aggravated child abuse, was convicted only upon the second count. While upholding the propriety of the jury instructions, the Court of Criminal Appeals reversed, ruling that the state had failed to establish that the defendant had knowingly inflicted the injuries. We granted review in order to determine whether the evidence was sufficient to establish that the defendant acted knowingly and by non-accidental means. Because the trial court provided adequate instructions and because the circumstantial evidence, as accredited by the jury, established the essential elements of the offense, the judgment of the Court of Criminal Appeals is reversed and the conviction and sentence is reinstated.


Court: TWCA


D. Russell Thomas and Herbert M. Schaltegger, Murfreesboro, Tennessee, for the appellant, Roy Samuel Batson.

Kitty Boyte (on appeal) and Patrick A. Ruth (at trial), Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellees, Interstate Brands Corporation and Indemnity Insurance Company of North America.


This workers' compensation appeal has been referred to the Special Workers' Compensation Appeals Panel in accordance with Tennessee Code Annotated section 50-6-225(e)(3) for hearing and reporting to the Supreme Court of findings of fact and conclusions of law. The trial court denied appellant Roy Samuel Batson's claim for workers' compensation benefits on the basis that Mr. Batson failed to establish that his disability was caused by his work. Mr. Batson has appealed. After our review of the record, we agree with the trial court that Mr. Batson has failed to carry his burden of proof with respect to causation. Accordingly, we affirm the judgment of the trial court denying Mr. Batson's claim for benefits.


Court: TCA


B.J. Reed, Knoxville, Tennessee, for appellants, Robert Hoskins and wife, Delinda Hoskins.

David H. Stanifer and Lindsey C. Cadle, Tazewell, Tennessee, for appellees, Stanley Joe Williams and wife, Elizabeth Williams.


In this dispute over the use of a driveway, the Trial Court rejected plaintiffs' claim to an easement and held that plaintiffs were only entitled to the express easement granted in their deed. Plaintiffs appealed and we affirm the Judgment of the Trial Court.

CORRECTION appears on page one (1), wherein the Pro Se Appellant's address was changed from Nashville to Murfreesboro, Tennessee.

Court: TCA


Hiram Poole, Murfreesboro, Tennessee, Pro Se.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Michael E. Moore, Solicitor General; Gina J. Barham, Deputy Attorney General, Laura T. Kidwell, for the appellee, Tennessee Lottery Commission.

The appellant filed this action against the State of Tennessee and the Tennessee Lottery Commission alleging that the defendants breached a contract with him by failing to pay him the $171,000,000 grand prize for the December 8, 2004 Powerball drawing. The trial court dismissed the action as barred by the doctrine of res judicata. We affirm.


Court: TCCA


James R. Nowlin, Memphis, Tennessee, for the appellant, Vicki Hogan.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Lacy Wilber, Assistant Attorney General; William L. Gibbons, District Attorney General; and Kirby May, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: OGLE

A Shelby County Criminal Court jury convicted the appellant, Vicki Hogan, of driving under the influence (DUI) and DUI per se. The trial court merged the convictions and sentenced the appellant to eleven months, twenty-nine days to be served as ten days in jail and the remainder on probation. On appeal, the appellant contends that both of her convictions should be reversed because the trial court improperly allowed the State to introduce into evidence the result of her breathalyzer test, which the Memphis Police Department administered more than three hours after her arrest, in direct contravention to the plain language of Tennessee Code Annotated section 55-10-406(a)(1). Based upon the record and the parties' briefs, we conclude that the appellant's DUI per se conviction should be reversed. However, the appellant has waived her claim regarding the DUI conviction because she failed to comply with Rule 24(c), Tennessee Rules of Appellate Procedure, which requires that an appellant's statement of the evidence convey a "complete account of what transpired with respect to those issues that are the bases of appeal."


Court: TCCA


James E. Thomas, Memphis, Tennessee, attorney for appellant, Calvin Scott.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Benjamin A. Ball, Assistant Attorney General; William L. Gibbons, District Attorney General; and Michelle Parks, Assistant District Attorney General, attorneys for appellee, State of Tennessee.


The petitioner, Calvin Scott, appeals as of right the post-conviction court's denial of his petition for post-conviction relief. The petitioner alleged that he was denied the effective assistance of counsel due to trial counsel's failure to appeal the trial court's denial of his motion to suppress. Following our review, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.


Court: TCCA


Ryan B. Feeney, Selmer, Tennessee, (on appeal); and Scott A. Lovelace, Ripley, Tennessee, (at trial) for the appellant, Johnny B. Temple.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; David H. Findley, Assistant Attorney General; and D. Michale Dunavant, District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.


The Defendant, Johnny Benard Temple, was convicted of eight counts of delivery of .5 ounces or more of marijuana, a Schedule VI controlled substance, and two counts of delivery of .5 grams or more of cocaine, a Schedule II controlled substance. He was sentenced as a career offender to an effective sentence of 102 years in the Department of Correction. In this direct appeal, he argues that (1) the trial court improperly denied his two requests for a continuance; and (2) the trial court ordered consecutive sentencing in violation of the Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution. We conclude that these arguments lack merit and accordingly affirm. Because of certain inconsistencies between the Defendant's sentences as announced at his sentencing hearing and his sentences as recorded on his judgment forms, however, we remand for clarification and entry of corrected judgments.


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Legal News
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U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is back on the bench and is in her usual inquisitive form, less than three weeks after undergoing surgery for pancreatic cancer. On Saturday, U.S. Sen. Jim Bunning of Kentucky predicted that Ginsburg could be dead from pancreatic cancer within nine months. In a speech at a Republican Party Lincoln Day Dinner, the Louisville Courier-Journal reports that Bunning told the crowd Ginsburg had "bad cancer. The kind that you don't get better from ... Even though she was operated on, usually, nine months is the longest that anybody would live after [being diagnosed] with pancreatic cancer."
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District judge pleads guilty before trial begins
A U.S. District judge in Texas has pled guilty to obstruction of justice in a plea deal that avoids a trial scheduled to begin today. The plea resolves five other charges of aggravated sexual abuse based on allegations Judge Samuel Kent fondled two court employees. Few federal judges ever go to trial, but his would have been the first in which a federal judge was accused of sexual charges. Kent faces up to 20 years in prison on the obstruction charge. connects you to the story
SETLAW names new officers and board members
The Southeast Tennessee Lawyers Association for Women has named new officers and board members for 2009. Officers are President Kathryn M. Russell with Campbell & Campbell; President-elect Amanda B. Rogers with Luther Anderson PLLP; Treasurer Heather Magnuson with Leitner, Williams, Dooley & Napolitan PLLC; and Secretary Kathryn G. Smith with the Electric Power Board's legal division. Board members are Megan E. Demastus with Berke, Berke & Berke; Nancy Pagano with Legal Aid of East Tennessee; Blair Bennington Cannon with Patrick, Beard, Schulman & Jacoway PC; and Rebecca Sierra Woods with Jenkins, Habernicht & Woods PLLC. All are from Chattanooga.

Fund for crime victims included in stimulus package
Tennessee's Criminal Injuries Compensation Fund -- used for crime victims who do not have a means to pay medical, legal or related bills -- had nearly $7 million at the end of the 2008 fiscal year, according to Steve Curry, assistant to the state treasurer. And last week's signed economic stimulus package includes funding for both victims' funds and the system of victims' assistance programs such as rape crisis centers and other counseling services. The fund collects money though a combination of probation, parole and bond fees, along with money privilege taxes levied against convicted criminals.
The Chattanooga Times Free Press has the story
New book details eminent domain case
An investigative journalist and author uses journals, e-mails and other personal documents as well as court transcripts and interviews to present a detailed behind-the-scenes account of the battle over the now-famous eminent domain case, Kelo v. City of New London.
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Supreme Court Report
Praying coaches subject of possible Supreme Court case
Can coaches pray with their teams in public schools? That's the question in a case making its way to the U.S. Supreme court. The court will decide whether or not to take up a case that banned a football coach at a public school in East Brunswick, N.J., from kneeling or bowing his head while his team prayed. "There's a pretty bright line here; school officials may not pray with students during their contract day," said Charles Haynes, senior scholar at the First Amendment Center. "I don't think the coach has to leave the room. He can just stand silently and watch. But he can't participate."
Read more in the Tennessean
Moldy portraits updated in Hamilton courthouse
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The Chattanooga Times Free Press reports
Disciplinary Actions
Seal lifted on Knoxville lawyer's suspension
On Feb. 18 the Tennessee Supreme Court lifted the seal on a Nov. 13, 2007, order in which the court had suspended Knoxville lawyer Thomas F. DiLustro for 30 days. The court also ordered that DiLustro shall remain compliant with his two-year monitoring agreement with the Tennessee Lawyer's Assistance Program (TLAP).
Read the BPR release
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