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TODAY'S OPINIONS
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
04 - TN Court of Appeals
04 - TN Court of Criminal Appeals
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00 - Judicial Ethics Opinions
00 - Formal Ethics Opinions - BPR

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SUPREME COURT DISCRETIONARY APPEALS Grants & Denials List

Court: TSC

http://www.tba2.org/tba_files/TSC/2009/certlist_113009.pdf


JOHN O. THREADGILL v. BOARD OF PROFESSIONAL RESPONSIBILITY OF THE SUPREME COURT OF TENNESSEE

Court: TSC

Attorneys:

Ralph E. Harwell, Knoxville, Tennessee, for the appellant, John O. Threadgill.

Randall J. Spivey, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellee, Board of Professional Responsibility of the Supreme Court of Tennessee.

Judge: CLARK

In this direct appeal of a lawyer disciplinary proceeding involving four separate complaints, we are asked to determine whether the trial court correctly affirmed the hearing panel's Order suspending attorney John O. Threadgill from the practice of law for one year. Mr. Threadgill argues that the hearing panel erred in suspending him because the evidence does not support all the hearing panel's findings of professional misconduct. To the extent Mr. Threadgill did violate rules of professional conduct, he contends that he acted negligently, rather than knowingly. Accordingly, Mr. Threadgill argues that his suspension is an excessive sanction, both in light of his conduct in these cases and in light of the sanctions administered in other, factually similar cases. Mr. Threadgill also maintains that his proceedings were procedurally unlawful because a member of the hearing panel and a lawyer-witness were subsequently disciplined for professional misconduct in other matters. We affirm the judgment of the trial court.

http://www.tba2.org/tba_files/TSC/2009/threadgillj_113009.pdf


K.A.G. v. B.L.I.

Court: TCA

Attorneys:

Megan A. Kingree, Shelbyville, Tennessee, for the appellant, K.A.G.

William M. Haywood, Lewisburg, Tennessee, for the appellee, B.L.I.

Judge: SUSANO

This appeal stems from a paternity action in which K.A.G. ("Mother") filed a petition against B.L.I. ("Father") seeking legitimation of Z.R.G. ("the Child"), her then 14-year-old son, and an award of child support. The parties stipulated that Father was the biological father of the Child based on the results of DNA testing. An agreed order was entered setting Father's current child support obligation under the Child Support Guidelines ("the Guidelines"). Following a hearing on the remaining issues, Father was ordered to pay child support retroactive to the filing of the petition plus 36 months. Father was also ordered to pay a portion of the Child's orthodontic and dental expenses. Mother appeals, contending that the trial court erred in declining to award her child support back to the date of the child's birth. We conclude that the court abused its discretion in deviating from the presumption that child support should be awarded retroactively to the date of the child's birth. We vacate that portion of the trial court's judgment pertaining to retroactive child support and remand for a hearing at which the trial court will calculate, in a manner consistent with the Guidelines, the child support due Mother from the date of the Child's birth to the date of filing of the petition.

http://www.tba2.org/tba_files/TCA/2009/kag_113009.pdf


ROBERT JOE LEE v. NANCY KATHERINE STANFIELD, ET AL.

Court: TCA

Attorneys:

Brian C. Quist and Joanna R. O'Hagan, Knoxville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Robert Joe Lee.

James F. Logan, Jr., Cleveland, Tennessee, for the appellee, Nancy Katherine Stanfield.

Kenneth R. Jones, Jr., Nashville, Tennessee, and William C. Carriger and Samuel R. Anderson, Chattanooga, Tennessee, for the appellee, Teresa Vincent.

Roger E. Jenne, Cleveland, Tennessee, for the appellee, Hyde Development, LLC.

David S. Humberd, Cleveland, Tennessee, pro se.

Robert J. Uhorchuk, Chattanooga, Tennessee, for the appellee, Fidelity National Title Insurance Company.

In this action Robert Joe Lee ("the Lessee") sought to void the sale by Nancy Katherine Stanfield ("the Lessor") of 68 acres of her property to realtor Teresa Vincent and Vincent's sale by contract of 50 plus acres to Hyde Development, LLC. The Lessee, who leased approximately 4.3 acres of the larger tract of property later bought by Hyde, sought specific performance of a "first [sic] right of refusal to purchase said leased property," and, alternatively, damages for the denial of the opportunity to purchase the property. (Footnote added.) By the time the case was tried, the parties to this litigation included all of the individuals and the entity named above plus David S. Humberd, the trustee on a deed of trust from Hyde in favor of Hyde's lender, and Fidelity National Title Insurance Company, the issuer to Hyde of a title policy. Numerous counterclaims and cross-claims were filed, including Hyde's claim that the Lessee wrongfully detained the property and Hyde's claim that the Lessor and Vincent breached warranties of title in their respective contracts and deeds. After seven days of trial, the court submitted the case to a jury with 27 special interrogatories and instructed the jury to answer all of the interrogatories. Based on the jury's answers to the interrogatories and the court's rulings of law, some of which were consistent with the jury's interrogatory answers and some of which were not, the trial court fashioned a final judgment which, as later amended, held that the right of first refusal was unenforceable, but that the same right, and the Lessee's actions taken to enforce that right, caused damage to Hyde in the amount of $611,676.38 for which the Lessee, the Lessor and Vincent were jointly and severally liable. The Lessee was the first to file a notice of appeal, but most all of the parties challenge some aspect of the trial court's judgment. We reverse in part and affirm in part.

http://www.tba2.org/tba_files/TCA/2009/leer_113009.pdf


TIM E. SHAW v. CLEVELAND UTILITIES WATER DIVISION, ET AL.

Court: TCA

Attorneys:

Tim E. Shaw, Cleveland, Tennessee, pro se.

John F. Kimball, Cleveland, Tennessee, for the appellee, Cleveland Utilities Water Division.

William E. Godbold and Benjamin T. Reese, Chattanooga, Tennessee, for the appellee, GAB Robins North America, Inc.

Judge: SUSANO

Tim E. Shaw ("the plaintiff") filed this action on August 6, 2008, seeking damages related to a sewer backup that flooded his rental property on August 30, 2005. The defendants all filed dispositive motions arguing that the claims were barred by the one-year statute of limitations codified at Tenn. Code Ann. section 29-20-305(b) (2000) for claims made under the Tennessee Governmental Tort1 Liability Act ("the GTLA"), and the general one-year statute of limitations for personal injury torts2 codified at Tenn. Code Ann. section 28-3-104(a)(1)(2000). The trial court held that any and all claims3 accrued on August 30, 2005, and expired one year later. The trial court dismissed the claims against all defendants as barred by the applicable statute of limitations. The plaintiff appeals. We affirm.

http://www.tba2.org/tba_files/TCA/2009/shawt_113009.pdf


THOMAS JERRY WILSON v. REGINA DAWN BAINES

Court: TCA

Attorneys:

Andrew M. Cate, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Thomas Jerry Wilson.

D. Scott Parsley and Michael K. Parsley, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellee, Regina Dawn Baines.

Judge: DINKINS

Father registered and sought modification of a foreign decree related to custody of the parties' children. Following a trial, the trial court dismissed Father's petition; nevertheless, the trial court, sua sponte, modified the foreign decree. The trial court also awarded attorney's fees to Mother. Father appeals the action of the trial court modifying the foreign decree after dismissing his petition and the trial court's award of attorney's fees to Mother. We affirm in part and reverse in part the judgment of the trial court.

http://www.tba2.org/tba_files/TCA/2009/wilsont_113009.pdf


STATE OF TENNESSEE v. CHRISTOPHER THOMAS BERRY

Court: TCCA

Attorneys:

Doug Aaron, Manchester, Tennessee, for the appellant, Christopher Thomas Berry.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Lacy Wilber, Assistant Attorney General; Charles Michael Layne, District Attorney General; and Marla Holloway, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: WOODALL

Defendant, Christopher Thomas Berry, was indicted for three counts of aggravated rape, a Class A felony, and one count of domestic assault, a Class A misdemeanor. On January 19, 2007, Defendant entered a plea of guilty as to one of the felony counts, to the lesser included offense of aggravated assault, a Class C felony. The trial court sentenced Defendant as a Range II, multiple offender, to eight years, with Defendant placed on probation after serving one year in confinement. As part of the negotiated plea agreement, the State entered a nolo prosequi as to the other counts of the indictment. On September 6, 2007, a probation violation warrant was issued in which the State alleged that Defendant had violated the terms of his probation by failing to pass a drug screen test. Following a revocation hearing, the trial court revoked Defendant's probation and ordered him to serve his sentence in confinement. On appeal, Defendant challenges the trial court's revocation of his probation. After a thorough review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

http://www.tba2.org/tba_files/TCCA/2009/berryc_113009.pdf


STATE OF TENNESSEE v. GENARO EDGAR ESPINOSA DORANTES

Court: TCCA

Attorneys:

Jeffrey A. DeVasher, Assistant Public Defender (on appeal); Ross E. Alderman, District Public Defender (at trial) and Amy D. Harwell, Assistant Public Defender (at trial), Nashville, Tennessee, for the Defendant-Appellant, Genaro Edgar Espinosa Dorantes.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Preston Shipp, Assistant Attorney General; Victor S. Johnson, III, District Attorney General; Katrin N. Miller and Brian K. Holmgren, Assistant District Attorneys General, for the Appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: MCMULLEN

Defendant-Appellant, Genaro Edgar Espinosa Dorantes ("Dorantes") was convicted by a Davidson County jury of first degree felony murder during the perpetration of aggravated child abuse and aggravated child abuse by infliction of injury. For the felony murder conviction, Dorantes received a mandatory sentence of life imprisonment. The trial court later sentenced him as Range I, standard offender to a consecutive term of twenty-two years' incarceration for the aggravated child abuse conviction. Dorantes argues: (1) the record is insufficient to support both his conviction for first degree felony murder based on aggravated child abuse and his conviction for aggravated child abuse; (2) the trial court erred in admitting certain photographs of the victim's body; (3) the trial court erred when it refused to provide a special jury instruction that ensured that the verdicts were based on acts of abuse rather than a continuing course of neglect; (4) the trial court erred in denying his motion to require the State to make an election of offenses; and (5) his sentence of twenty-two years for the aggravated child abuse conviction was excessive. After a careful review of the record and the issues presented, we conclude the evidence is insufficient to support the aggravated child abuse conviction; therefore, we reverse and vacate the conviction for the aggravated child abuse and modify Dorantes' sentence to life imprisonment. The judgment of the trial court for the felony murder conviction is affirmed.

http://www.tba2.org/tba_files/TCCA/2009/dorantesg_113009.pdf

TIPTON concurring and dissenting
http://www.tba2.org/tba_files/TCCA/2009/dorantesg_CON_113009.pdf


JEREMY HARDISON v. STATE OF TENNESSEE

Court: TCCA

Attorneys:

Douglas A. Trant, Knoxville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Jeremy Hardison.

Robert E. Cooper, Attorney General and Reporter; Benjamin A. Ball, Assistant Attorney General: Micheal T. Bottoms, District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: WOODALL

Petitioner Jeremy Hardison filed, by and through counsel, a Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus, attacking his conviction in Knox County Criminal Court for possession with intent to sell more than 26 grams of cocaine in a school zone. Upon motion of the Respondent, the Circuit Court of Wayne County summarily dismissed the petition. Petitioner has appealed, and following the filing of Petitioner's brief, the state filed a motion for this Court to affirm by memorandum opinion pursuant to Rule 20 of the Rules of the Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee. Finding merit in the motion, we affirm.

http://www.tba2.org/tba_files/TCCA/2009/hardisonj_113009.pdf


JOHNNY L. MCGOWAN, JR. v. STATE OF TENNESSEE

Court: TCCA

Attorneys:

Johnny L. McGowan, Jr., Mountain City, Tennessee, pro se.

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

Judge: WITT

The petitioner, Johnny L. McGowan, Jr., appeals from the habeas corpus court's denial of his "Motion to Recall and Vacate Partial Habeas Corpus Order Based Upon Newly Established Habeas Law." Because no appeal as of right lies from the denial of such a motion, we dismiss his appeal.

http://www.tba2.org/tba_files/TCCA/2009/mcgowanj_113009.pdf


TODAY'S NEWS

Legal News
Passages
Politics
TBA Member Services

Legal News
TBJ studies Tennessee's job outlook in December issue
For a local look at the legal job market for new lawyers, read the December issue of the Tennessee Bar Journal. The Journal found that in Tennessee job prospects are not quite as bleak as it is nationwide. ABAJournal.com reports that the job market is bleak for new lawyers and summer associate hopefuls. The law school at the University of Texas at Austin, for example, reported a 45 percent drop in on-campus interviews.

You can also find out more about the state's two newest law schools -- and if you've been asking yourself why Belmont and Lincoln universities would start schools now, this has the answers.

Also in this Journal: the importance of a law firm's culture of ethics, denying beer permits, and wisdom from our regular columnists Gail Vaughn Ashworth, Dan Holbrook, Don Paine and Bill Haltom. Jason Long reviews Haltom's newest book -- and you can learn how to run for a TBA office, too.
Read the December TBJ
Restraining order to stop Johnson execution denied
The U.S. District Court of Middle Tennessee today ruled that a request for a temporary restraining order to stop the execution of death row inmate Cecil Johnson Jr. is the functional equivalent of a second or successive habeas petition for which prior appellate approval for filing is required. Accordingly, the court found that it lacks jurisdiction over the action and transferred the filings to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit. The execution is scheduled for Dec. 2. The News Sentinel has more.
Find these and related documents on tncourts.gov
Supreme Court slower to act on first case this year
For the first time under Chief Justice John Roberts, the Supreme Court failed to issue opinions before Thanksgiving in any of the cases that were argued in recent months, the Associated Press reports. The court returned to work today.
Find out more from WCTV
Passages
Services today for Nashville lawyer W.A. Moody
Services were held this afternoon for longtime Nashville attorney William A. Moody. He died Saturday at 88. A U.S. Marine Corps veteran and Vanderbilt Law School graduate, Mr. Moody practiced law in Nashville for 59 years. Memorial donations may be made to the missionary work of his granddaughter, Rachel, and her husband, Aaron Kelly, in Guatemala in care of: Students International, P.O. Box 2733, Visalia, CA 93279-2733.
Read the full obituary in the Tennessean
Memphis state rep. dies Friday
State Rep. Larry Turner died of heart failure Friday at Methodist University Hospital, where he was being treated for pneumonia. He was 70. First elected to the legislature in 1984, Rep. Turner was secretary of the House Democratic Caucus and served on several committees, including Education and Commerce, and was a member of the Black Caucus.
Read more in the Memphis Commercial Appeal
Politics
Paula Flowers drops out of 3rd District race
Former Tennessee Commerce and Insurance Commissioner Paula Flowers is leaving the race for Tennessee's 3rd Congressional District, she said this morning. This leaves Brent Benedict as the only other Democrat seeking the nomination. Republican candidates include former state Republican Party Chairwoman Robin Smith, lawyer Chuck Fleischmann and Bradley County Sheriff Tim Gobble.
Read her statement on NashvillePost.com
TBA Member Services
Avis benefits 'try harder'
TBA members are offered a rental car discount through Avis. Enroll in the Avis Preferred Service at www.avisawards.com to bypass the rental counter and go directly to your car for a faster, easier rental experience. Enter code AWD# A570100.


 
 
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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.

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