Judicial Council makes resource recommendations

The Tennessee Judicial Council made recommendations on the allocation of judicial, district attorney and public defender positions during its annual meeting today in Nashville. As called for by the legislature, the council reviewed the weighted caseload study before making its recommendations. The study showed total trial court filings up by less than one percent. Of those filings, medical malpractice cases (which are weighted more heavily) declined by 20.7 percent, while collections cases grew by 14.2 percent and orders of protection by 12 percent. Staff presenting the data speculated that bad economic conditions may be driving the uptick in certain types of cases. When the formula and filings are taken together, the study says that the state may have 1.71 too many judges, though some specific districts come up short. Since all state government agencies are fighting to just keep the budget they already have, there were no new requests for additional judgeships or resources for the public defender or district attorneys offices.
Click on the category of your choice to view summaries of today’s opinions from that court, or other body. A link at the end of each case summary will let you download the full opinion in PDF format. To search all opinions in the TBALink database or to obtain a text version of each opinion, go to our OpinionSearch page. If you have forgotten your password or need to obtain a password, you can look it up on TBALink at the TBA's Membership Central.

02 - TN Supreme Court
00 - TN Worker's Comp Appeals
00 - TN Supreme Court - Rules
03 - TN Court of Appeals
04 - TN Court of Criminal Appeals
00 - TN Attorney General Opinions
00 - Judicial Ethics Opinions
00 - Formal Ethics Opinions - BPR

You can obtain full-text versions of the opinions two ways. We recommend that you download the Opinions to your computer and then open them from there. 1) Click the URL at end of each Opinion paragraph below. This should give you the option to download the original document. If not, you may need to right-click on the URL to get the option to save the file to your computer. 2) Do a key word search in the Search Link area of TBALink. This option will allow you to view and save a plain-text version of the opinion.


Court: TSC



Court: TSC


Jonathan E. Roberts, Thomas L. Kilday, and Deborah Roberts, Greeneville, Tennessee, and Joshua M. Ball, Knoxville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Chalet Village Properties, Inc.

Eugene B. Dixon, Maryville, Tennessee, for the appellee, Patricia B. Stewart.

Theodore Hadzi-Antich, Sacramento, California, for the amicus curiae, Pacific Legal Foundation.


This case involves the validity of an exculpatory clause in a short-term residential lease agreement between a rental agency and the plaintiff. The day after entering into the lease agreement, the plaintiff fell on a walkway leading to the entrance of the rental property. The plaintiff filed suit against the rental agency and the owner of the property alleging that they were negligent in failing to properly maintain the walkway and failing to warn the plaintiff of the walkway's condition. The trial court granted summary judgment to the rental agency, upholding the exculpatory clause in the lease agreement. In reversing the trial court, the Court of Appeals held that the exculpatory clause in favor of the rental agency was invalid as contrary to public policy. We conclude that the trial court failed to apply the factors adopted by this Court in Olson v. Molzen, 558 S.W.2d 429, 431 (Tenn. 1977), for determining whether an exculpatory clause violates public policy and that the application of these factors is hampered by an incomplete record. We therefore reverse the judgment of the Court of Appeals and remand the case to the trial court for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.



Court: TCA


Ron Harvey, Germantown, Tennessee, for the appellant, Michael Dale Moore.

Jason R. Creasy, Dyersburg, Tennessee, for the appellees, James Keith Jones and Cari Lecklitner Jones.

Judge: KIRBY

This appeal involves the termination of parental rights. When the mother and father divorced, the mother was designated as the child's primary residential parent. In light of the mother's allegations that he had threatened her, the father was granted only supervised visitation. After the divorce, the father lived in Texas and visited the child in Tennessee. Several years later, the father remarried and was awarded unsupervised visitation with the child. Soon thereafter, the child went to Texas for a visit with the father and his new wife. During this visit, the father and his new wife had a domestic dispute in which the father locked her and the child out of their house. After this incident, the mother refused to allow the child to visit with the father. The father was then charged with assaulting his new wife and was given probation on this charge. Soon after that, the father violated the terms of his probation by testing positive for methamphetamine. He was sentenced to ten years in prison. At the time he was sentenced, the child was seven years old. Several years later, the mother remarried. The mother and her new husband then filed this petition to terminate the father's parental rights and to allow the mother's new husband to adopt the child. After a hearing, the trial court terminated the father's parental rights, finding grounds for termination and finding that termination was in the child's best interest. The father now appeals, challenging only the trial court's determination regarding the child's best interest. We affirm.


Substituted - This Opinion was filed on 10/15 and withdrawn and substituted by Order this date.

Court: TCA


Thomas M. Minor, Somerville, TN, for Appellant

Robert Stephen Butler, Sr., Somerville, TN, for Appellees Faye Bowling Devore, Tannis Ann Bowling Pleasants and Allan Bruce Bowling.

Lee S. Saunders, Somerville, TN; Steven R. Walker, Memphis, TN, for Appellee Helen McKnight.


This case involves the interpretation of the term "bodily heirs." Testator's will, probated in 1942, left certain lands to his daughter for her life, and then to her "bodily heirs." The life tenant's granddaughter concedes that she is not entitled to take through her deceased father, as his interest lapsed when he predeceased the life tenant. However, she contends that she is entitled to take directly as a "bodily heir" of the life tenant. We agree that if granddaughter is her father's issue, and her father is the life tenant's issue, she is a "bodily heir" of the life tenant. Thus, we reverse the trial court's grant of summary judgment to defendants, and we remand to the trial court for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.



Court: TCA


Jennifer Twyman King, Jackson, TN, for Appellant

Felicia Corbin Johnson, Memphis, TN, for Appellee


After Mother and Father divorced, a parenting plan was entered designating Father as the primary custodian of the parties' minor child. Mother filed a petition to modify, alleging several grounds, including excessive corporal punishment. The trial court initially found no material change in circumstances, but named Mother primary custodian, based on the minor child's preference. Father appealed, and this Court remanded, finding that the court's ruling was premature. On remand, the trial court, again, awarded custody to Mother, finding the following material changes in circumstance: 1) Mother's remarriage and having had two other children; 2) Mother's completion of her undergraduate degree, her work towards a Master's degree, and having a stable job; 3) Mother's having left the national guard; and 4) the minor child's preference to live with Mother. We affirm the trial court's modification of custody.



Court: TCCA


Bruce E. Poston, Knoxville, Tennessee (on appeal) and John Boucher, Knoxville, Tennessee (at trial) for the appellant, Gregory Lynn Hill.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Benjamin A. Ball, Assistant Attorney General; Randall E. Nichols, District Attorney General; and Jason Hunnicutt, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: WITT

The defendant, Gregory Lynn Hill, appeals his Knox County Criminal Court convictions of two counts of aggravated assault and his resulting sentences. The defendant challenges the sufficiency of the convicting evidence. The defendant also avers that the trial court erred by denying his motion for a mistrial because the State's witnesses violated the rule of sequestration. See Tenn. R. Evid. 615. Further, the defendant argues that the trial court erred by denying his request for a jury instruction regarding defense of a third person and in sustaining the prosecution's objection to the testimony of defense witness Martin Hill as to the violent characteristics of one of the victims. As for the defendant's consecutive eight-year sentences, the defendant alleges that the trial court erred by improperly evaluating the enhancement and mitigating factors and by improperly imposing consecutive rather than concurrent sentences. Discerning no error, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.



Court: TCCA


Chadwick G. Hunt, Savannah, Tennessee, for the appellant, Christopher R. Rickman.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Sophia S. Lee, Assistant Attorney General; D. Michael Dunavant, District Attorney General; and Bob Gray, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.


The defendant, Christopher R. Rickman, was convicted by a McNairy County jury of theft of property greater than $1000, a Class D felony, and possession of drug paraphernalia, a Class A misdemeanor. He was subsequently sentenced to concurrent sentences of three years, to be suspended following service of ninety days, and eleven months and twenty-nine days. On appeal, the defendant raises two issues for our review: (1) whether the evidence presented was sufficient to support the convictions; and (2) whether the trial court erred in denying a sentence of full probation. Following review of the record, we find no error and affirm the convictions and resulting sentences.



Court: TCCA


Brandt Davis, Knoxville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Charles Ritter.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Matthew Bryant Haskell, Assistant Attorney General; Randall E. Nichols, District Attorney General; and Jeff Blevins, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.


The Petitioner, Charles Ritter, appeals the denial of post-conviction relief in the Criminal Court for Knox County from his convictions for aggravated rape and aggravated sexual battery, for which he received concurrent sentences of forty years and twenty years. On appeal, the Petitioner contends that the trial court erred in finding that he did not receive the ineffective assistance of counsel based on (1) the Petitioner's conflicts with trial counsel or trial counsel's failure to consult with the Petitioner, and (2) trial counsel's ineffective investigation, preparation, and conducting the trial of the case. We affirm the judgment of the trial court.



Court: TCCA


Lance R. Chism, Memphis, Tennessee, for the appellant, Darrell Walls.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Leslie E. Price, Assistant Attorney General; William L. Gibbons, District Attorney General; and Alanda Dwyer, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.


The petitioner, Darrell Walls, appeals the denial of his petition for post-conviction relief and argues that counsel was ineffective for failing to adequately investigate his case. The petitioner entered a best interest plea to voluntary manslaughter, a Class C felony, and aggravated assault, a Class C felony. He was sentenced as a Range II, multiple offender to eight years in confinement. After careful review, we affirm the denial of post-conviction relief by the post-conviction court.



Legal News
Supreme Court Report
Disciplinary Actions
TBA Member Services

Legal News
Nashville Bar Foundation welcomes 2009 Fellows
The Nashville Bar Foundation welcomed its 2009 Fellows with a reception Saturday at the Schermerhorn Symphony Center. Contributions from the Foundation help support the Nashville Pro Bono program, as well as other efforts to advance and promote the administration of justice, the public's understanding of the law and the legal system. The 2009 class of Fellows is made up of Daniel Berexa, Rebecca Blair, Martha Boyd, James Catalano, Lisa Cole, Patricia Eastwood, John Griffin Jr., Tonya Grindon, John Holt, Michael Jameson, Richard Littlehale, Gerald Martin, Melissa McGuire, Nathan Ridley, Cristi Scott, Philip Smith, Carol Solomon, Bernadette Welch and Nicholas Zeppos.

2 attorneys finalists for women in business awards
Two Nashville attorneys have been selected as finalists in the 6th annual Stevie Awards for Women in Business competition. Winners will be announced this Friday in New York. Carol Owen, a partner at Waller Lansden Dortch & Davis, LLP, is a finalist in the "Mentor of the Year" category, and Teresa Walker, executive director of the firm, is a finalist in the "Best Executive -- Service Business -- up to 2,500 employees" category. Owen and Walker were selected from more than 1,100 entries submitted for consideration in 54 categories.
Read more from Waller Lansden Dortch & Davis, LLP
Feuding Nashville lawyers drop suits
Well-known Nashville plaintiff's attorney Bart Durham and his former top staff attorney, Robert L. Whitaker, have announced an agreement to end allegations and lawsuits filed against each other in August and September. The announcement says they have agreed to split the attorneys' fees from a lawsuit against Wal-Mart Transportation LLC in which they were both involved.
Read more in the Nashville post
GM bankruptcy leads to higher workers comp award
A ruling in a GM employee workers compensation lawsuit could potentially cost the automaker millions if it is upheld, the Maury County Daily Herald reports. Nashville attorney Rocky McElhaney told the paper that a Circuit Court judge ruling in Marshall County left his client entitled to greater damages than normally allowed under state law because of the way GM has been structured since filing for bankruptcy in June.
Read more in the Maury County Daily Herald
Capitol Hill broadcaster dead at 71
The host of public television's weekly Tennessee "Legislative Report" has died. Respected broadcaster and businessman Don Spain died Sunday at his home in Nashville. He was 71. Along with hosting the weekly legislative roundup, Mr. Spain founded the Tennessee News Service Inc., which led to the formation of the Tennessee Radio Network, the Kentucky Network and the South Carolina Network -- collectively providing programming for 300 stations.
Read more from the Knoxville News Sentinel
Supreme Court Report
Court considers life sentences for teens
The Supreme Court today wrestled with whether teenagers can be locked away forever for their crimes. The question arose in two cases involving Florida men who are serving life prison terms with no chance of parole for crimes they committed as teens. Their lawyers argue that the sentences for people so young are cruel and unusual, in violation of the Constitution, because young people have greater capacity to change.
News Channel 3 has more
Justices look at question of patenting business methods
When can a business method be patented? That's the question Supreme Court justices faced today when they began trying to determine whether swaths of modern business activity such as Amazon.com Inc.'s one-click checkout deserves patent protections, thereby opening the door to infringement lawsuits, or belong in the public domain, depriving their inventors of monopoly profits.
Read about it in the Wall Street Journal
Disciplinary Actions
Memphis attorney reinstated
Memphis attorney Michael Latimore was reinstated to the practice of law by Order of the Tennessee Supreme Court on Nov. 3. He had been temporarily suspended on Sept. 1 for failing to respond to a complaint of misconduct.
Read the full BPR news release
TBA Member Services
Let JobLink help you with your next career move
A career service for Tennessee attorneys and law students, TBA JobLink is a job seeking and recruitment tool available at no charge. Whether you have a position to fill or are seeking employment, this site will guide you through a simple process to post your information.
Visit the site

Discontinue your TBA Today subscription? ... Surely not!
But if you must, visit the TBALink web site at:

Questions, comments: Email us at TBAToday@tnbar.org

About this publication: Today's News is a compilation of digests of news reports of interest to Tennessee lawyers compiled by TBA staff, links to digested press releases, and occasional stories about the TBA and other activities written by the TBA staff or members. Statements or opinions herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of the Tennessee Bar Association, its officers, board or staff.

© Copyright 2009 Tennessee Bar Association