Memphis team wins state mock trial competition

White Station High School's Green Team claimed the state mock trial title this past Saturday, defeating Battle Ground Academy of Franklin in the 29th annual Tennessee State High School Mock Trial Competition. The team, which is coached by Memphis attorneys Eugene "Buddy" and Michelle Bernstein, will represent Tennessee at the national competition in Atlanta May 6-10. This year the Mock Trial Committee presented a new sportsmanship award to recognize a team that conducted itself with honor. That award went to Clarksville High School, which was coached by local attorneys Christopher Barber and Stephen Darnell.

See competition details and a list of all award winners

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Court: TSC


Court: TCA


Barbara Hobock and Cynthia Chandler-Snell, Humboldt, Tennessee for the Appellant, Donna Burns Beckham Casteel.

James Y. Ross, Sr., Waynesboro, Tennessee for the Appellee, Jeff Beckham.


Jeff Beckham ("Father") and Donna Burns Beckham (Casteel) ("Mother") were divorced in November of 2004. Father and Mother have three minor children ("the Children"). In October of 2006, Mother filed a petition seeking to set aside the final divorce decree alleging that she only recently had received information that Father had a 401k accrued during the marriage but not disclosed during the divorce proceedings. The next month, Father filed a petition seeking to modify custody of the Children to make Father the primary residential parent. Mother then filed a petition for contempt alleging, among other things, that Father had failed to pay his share of summer child care expenses and medical bills for the Children, and had interfered with Mother's custody of the oldest child. After a trial, the Trial Court entered an order finding and holding, inter alia, that Mother was not entitled to relief from the final divorce decree under Tenn. R. Civ. P. 60.02; that a material change of circumstances existed warranting a change of custody; that Father be named the primary residential parent; and that Mother's petition for contempt was denied. Mother appeals to this Court. We affirm that portion of the Trial Court's order denying Mother relief from the final divorce decree, reverse that portion of the order finding a material change of circumstances warranting a change of custody, and remand this case for entry of orders consistent with our Opinion.


Court: TCA


James E. Conley, Memphis, TN for Appellant, Ronald C. Frye.

Donald D. Howell, Kevin A. Dean, Knoxville, TN for Appellees, Norbert J. Slovis, Charles C. Lockett, and Marvin J. Weaver, Individually and as the Partnership d/b/a Lockett, Slovis & Weaver.


Plaintiff initially brought this legal malpractice action in 1994. After a lengthy period of inactivity, Defendants filed a motion to dismiss for failure to prosecute in 2005. The trial court granted the motion, but upon Plaintiff's request, decided to reinstate the action. In 2007, the trial court set a trial date and ordered Plaintiff to respond to Defendants' discovery request. When Plaintiff failed to answer, the trial court again granted Defendants' motion to dismiss for failure to prosecute and failure to comply with the court's order. Finding that the trial court did not abuse its discretion, we affirm.


Court: TCA


Dan R. Alexander, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Wade Lee Phelps.

H. Frederick Humbracht, Jr., Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellee, Bank of America.


Plaintiff appeals from the grant of summary judgment in a negligence and breach of contract action against bank which had closed loan and delivered loan proceeds to contractor. An agreement between contractor and third party providing financing for construction project stated that contractor and third party would be paid out of loan proceeds. Contractor failed to pay third party in accordance with their agreement. Trial court granted summary judgment to bank, holding that there was a joint venture between contractor and third party and that Bank's delivery of loan proceeds to contractor was payment to joint venture. Court also held that finding of joint venture pretermitted negligence and breach of contract claims against bank. Finding no error, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.


Court: TCCA


Benjamin S. Presnell, Tazewell, Tennessee, for the Appellant, Anita Kay Broughton.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Michael E. Moore, Solicitor General; Renee W. Turner, Assistant Attorney General; William Paul Phillips, District Attorney General; Jared Effler, Assistant District Attorney General, for the Appellee, State of Tennessee.


A Claiborne County jury convicted the Defendant, Anita Kay Broughton, of one count of premeditated first degree murder. The trial court sentenced her to life in prison. The Defendant appeals, contending that: (1) the State presented insufficient evidence of premeditation; (2) the trial court abused its discretion when it did not admit a DVD video of the crime scene; (3) the trial court erred when it did not admit prior inconsistent statements of witnesses; and (4) the prosecuting attorney improperly argued that the Defendant had previously raped one of the witnesses. After a thorough review of the record and the applicable law, we affirm the trial court's judgment.


Court: TCCA


Michael V. Morris, Only, Tennessee, Pro Se.

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


Petitioner, Michael V. Morris, appeals the habeas court's summary dismissal of his petition for writ of habeas corpus in which he alleged that the trial court erroneously classified him as a career offender and sentenced him in violation of Apprendi v. New Jersey, 530 U.S. 466 (2000), and its progeny. He also questioned the overall constitutionality of the Tennessee Sentencing Act insofar as it authorized the trial court to sentence him beyond that reflected in the jury verdict. Petitioner additionally argues on appeal that the trial court violated ex post facto prohibitions by sentencing him under the 2005 Sentencing Act. After a thorough review, we affirm the judgment of the habeas corpus court.


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