TBA announces 2010 public service award recipients

The 2009-2010 Access to Justice Public Service Awards will be presented this Saturday, Jan. 16, at the TBA's annual Public Service Luncheon at War Memorial Auditorium in Nashville. The luncheon, which is held in conjunction with the TBA's Leadership Conference, will feature a keynote address by former ABA President Robert Grey.

The Harris Gilbert Pro Bono Attorney of the Year Award, which honors a private sector attorney, will be presented to Nashville lawyer Michael G. Abelow with Sherrard & Roe for his work preserving home nursing services for 50 TennCare patients -- an effort that required a federal suit under the Americans with Disabilities Act and more than 500 hours of work. The Ashley T. Wiltshire Public Service Attorney of the Year Award, which honors a career public service attorney, will be presented to Nashville lawyer Doug Stevick with Southern Migrant Legal Services for his work protecting the rights of migrant workers. And the 2010 Law Student Volunteer of the Year Award will be presented to Diana Comes, a student at the University of Memphis Cecil C. Humphries School of Law, for her work with Memphis Area Legal Services. In addition to awards presented at the luncheon, the TBA Young Lawyers Division will present its CASA Volunteer of the Year Award at a dinner on Friday. The 2010 award will be given to Daniel Rowland of Johnson City who volunteers with CASA of Northeast Tennessee.

Read more about the award recipients in the Tennessee Bar Journal

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Court: TSC


Thomas C. Jessee, Johnson City, Tennessee, and Thomas S. Scott, Jr. and William Gordon Ball, Knoxville, Tennessee, for the appellant, William Gordon Ball.

Valerie T. Corder, Memphis, Tennessee, for the appellee, Marn Suzanne Larsen-Ball.


This case requires us to construe Tennessee Code Annotated section 36-4-121(b)(1)(A) to determine whether a $17 million attorney fee acquired by Husband after Wife filed a complaint for divorce but before the final divorce hearing is "marital property" and therefore subject to equitable division. The trial court classified the attorney fee as marital property and awarded approximately sixty percent of the marital estate to Husband and forty percent to Wife. The Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court's classification of the attorney fee and its division of the marital estate. We hold that the attorney fee is marital property and that the evidence does not preponderate against the trial court's division of the marital estate. We therefore affirm the judgment of the Court of Appeals.



Court: TSC


Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Michael E. Moore, Solicitor General; and Mark A. Fulks, Senior Counsel; Joe Crumley, District Attorney General; and Kenneth C. Baldwin, Assistant Attorney General, for the appellant, State of Tennessee.

Sonya Slaughter Helm, Bristol, Tennessee, for the appellee, Ricky Harris.


We granted the State's appeal to determine whether the Court of Criminal Appeals erred in reversing the trial court's summary dismissal of the petition for writ of error coram nobis and remanding for a determination of whether due process requires tolling of the one-year statute of limitations. We conclude that the delay in seeking coram nobis relief is unreasonable as a matter of law under the circumstances of this case, and therefore due process considerations do not preclude application of the statute of limitations to bar the petition. Accordingly, we reverse the judgment of the Court of Criminal Appeals and reinstate the judgment of the trial court dismissing the petition.


KOCH concurring in part and concurring in the result


Court: TCA


Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Michael E. Moore, Solicitor General; and Pamela S. Lorch, Senior Counsel, for the appellant, State of Tennessee.

Sue B. Cain, Director of Law, Lora Barkenbus Fox and Jeff Campbell, for the appellant, Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County, Tennessee.

William Hubbard and William Farmer, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellee, Sarah Ann Johnson.


The matters at issue pertain to Cecil C. Johnson, a condemned prisoner who was executed by the State of Tennessee on December 2, 2009, the decision of the Medical Examiner of Davidson County, Tennessee to perform a post-mortem autopsy on Mr. Johnson, and the objection to an autopsy based upon the religious beliefs of Mr. Johnson. The authority of the County Medical Examiner to perform an autopsy on Mr. Johnson, an executed prisoner, arises from the Post-Mortem Examination Act, Tennessee Code Annotated section 38-7-106. The Post-Mortem Act expressly authorizes the Medical Examiner to perform an autopsy of a prisoner executed in Davidson County, Tennessee. Sarah Ann Johnson opposes an autopsy based upon rights afforded under Tennessee's newly enacted "Preservation of Religious Freedom" statute, Tennessee Code Annotated section 4-1-407(c)(1) & (2). Tennessee's religious freedom statute states "[n]o government entity shall substantially burden a person's free exercise of religion unless it demonstrates that application of the burden to the person is: (1) Essential to further a compelling governmental interest; and (2) The least restrictive means of furthering that compelling governmental interest." We have determined that the Davidson County Medical Examiner may have a compelling governmental interest in performing autopsies of executed prisoners; however, the Medical Examiner has failed to establish by clear and convincing evidence under the specific facts of this case that performing an autopsy on Mr. Johnson is essential to furthering the articulated interest. We therefore affirm the decision of the Chancery Court.



Court: TCCA


William D. Massey, Memphis, Tennessee; Michael J. Passino and Kelley Henry, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Michael Angelo Coleman.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; James E. Gaylord, Assistant Attorney General; William Gibbons, District Attorney General; and John Campbell and Scott Bearup, Assistant District Attorneys General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.


The Petitioner, Michael Angelo Coleman, appeals his motion to reopen his post-conviction petition for the limited purpose of determining whether he is mentally retarded and, thus, ineligible for the death penalty. The Petitioner asserts that the proof established by a preponderance of the evidence that he is mentally retarded, which renders his sentence of death unconstitutional. After a review of the record and the applicable law, we affirm the lower court's denial of relief.



Court: TCCA


Paul D. Hessing, Paris, Tennessee, for the Defendant-Appellant, Jamie Lee McKinney.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Cameron L. Hyder, Assistant Attorney General; Hansel J. McCadams, District Attorney General; and R. Adam Jowers, Assistant District Attorney General, for the Appellee, State of Tennessee.


The Defendant-Appellant, Jamie Lee McKinney, appeals the revocation of his probation. He pled guilty in the Circuit Court of Henry County to attempt to commit aggravated sexual battery, a Class C felony. He was sentenced to six years supervised probation after nine months of confinement. On appeal, he claims: (1) the probation condition prohibiting marriage to someone with a minor child is unconstitutional; and (2) the trial court abused its discretion by revoking McKinney's probation because he left Henry County without his probation officer's permission. Upon review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.



Court: TCCA


Richard Lynn Norton, Mountain City, Tennessee, Pro Se.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; David H. Findley, Senior Counsel; C. Berkeley Bell, District Attorney General, attorneys for appellee, State of Tennessee.


The pro se Petitioner, Richard Lynn Norton, appeals as of right from the Greene County Criminal Court's summary dismissal of his petition for post-conviction relief attacking his 1999 convictions for three counts of selling or delivering a schedule II controlled substance. Following our review, we dismiss the appeal.



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Court of Appeals: no autopsy for Johnson
The Tennessee Court of Appeals today ruled that executed prisoner Cecil Johnson does not have to undergo an autopsy. Johnson, who was executed on Dec. 2, filed a request shortly before his death that his body not be examined, saying it was his religious belief that his body should not be desecrated. The state medical examiner's office challenged the request, arguing the state needs to ensure that the execution was performed properly. The Court of Appeals upheld the trial court's ruling that the state's need does not outweigh Johnson's religious beliefs. Download the opinion
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A story in yesterday's TBA Today incorrectly stated that two Memphis lawyers had joined a new firm formed by Robert L. Dinkelspiel. In fact, the attorneys -- Marshall Criss and Harry A. Johnson -- recently joined Apperson Crump & Maxwell PLC. Prior to joining Apperon Crump, Criss was in private practice and Johnson was the former executive vice president and general counsel of First Horizon National Corp.

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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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