Federal judges get 'Twitter instructions'

The rules for jury service in state and federal courts alike are evolving to grapple with the 21st century issue of electronic media. New jury instructions are being adopted and electronics are being banned from courtrooms. In January, the federal court's top administrative office, the Judicial Conference of the United States, issued so-called "Twitter instructions" to every federal judge, which are designed to be read to jurors at the start of the trial and before deliberations. "You may not use any electronic device or media" in connection with the case, the recommended federal instructions admonish. They also bar visits to "any Internet chat room, blog, or website such as Facebook, My Space, LinkedIn, YouTube or Twitter."

The Kingsport Times News carried this AP story

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Court: TSC


IN RE: I.M.P., A CHILD UNDER THE AGE OF EIGHTEEN YEARS, J.J.A., Petitioner/Appellant, v. M.P., ET AL., Respondents/Appellees

Court: TCA


James R. LaFevor, Knoxville, Tennessee, for the appellant, J.J.A.

Theodore Kern, Knoxville, Tennessee, for the appellee, M.P.

Laura S. Hash, Clinton, Tennessee, Guardian ad Litem.

Petitioner brought this action in Juvenile Court to establish paternity and set co-parenting time with the child. The mother answered and, as an affirmative defense, averred that the father had signed a waiver of his parental right and cited the statutes stating that a waiver of parental rights could not be revoked. The Trial Court appointed a guardian ad litem, and the sole issue tried by the Trial Court was whether the waiver should be voided on the grounds that the father had signed the waiver under duress and undue pressure. The Trial Judge found that the father failed to carry the burden of proof to establish by clear and convincing evidence that he signed the waiver of interest and notice due to fraud, duress or intentional misrepresentation. On appeal, we affirm the Judgment of the Trial Court.



Court: TCA


Robert M. Holland, Jr., Donald P. Paul, James A. Beakes, III, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Metropolitan Development and Housing Agency.

Sue B. Cain, Deputy Director of Law, Department of Law of the Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County; Lora Barkenbus Fox, J. Brooks Fox, Paul J. Campbell, II, Assistant Metropolitan Attorneys for the appellant, Metropolitan Board of Zoning Appeals and Metropolitan Government.

Lawrence P. Leibowitz, C. Ryan Stinnett, Knoxville, Tennessee, for the appellees, Lamar Tennessee, LLC d/b/a Lamar Advertising of Nashville and Frank C. May.


The Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County adopted a redevelopment plan for an area of the city which included the site of a long-existing billboard. The Tennessee Department of Transportation subsequently ordered the removal of the billboard to accommodate a road-widening project. The sign's owner filed an application for a permit to relocate the sign on another portion of its leasehold, but the city declined to approve the application because the redevelopment plan totally prohibits signs of that type. The sign company filed a petition for certiorari in the Chancery Court of Davidson County, asserting that Tenn. Code Ann. section 13-7-208 of the zoning statutes gave it the right to replace the sign. The court agreed, and ordered the city to re-evaluate the permit application in accordance with the statutory provisions for a pre-existing non-conforming use after a change of zoning. We reverse, finding that the grandfather provisions of Tenn. Code Ann. section 13-7-208 have no applicability to the restrictions contained in redevelopment plans under Tenn. Code Ann. section 13-20-201 et seq.



Court: TCA


David B. Herbert, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellants, Robert and Norma Parman.

Donald R. Barrett and Samuel B. Dreiling, Franklin, Tennessee, for the appellee Bolon Custom Kitchens.


Materials supplier filed suit to enforce a lien upon property for unpaid costs of improvement to the residence; the trial court granted supplier's motion for summary judgment. The property owners appeal, asserting that supplier's lien was barred by the filing of the Notice of Completion or, in the alternative, that supplier's Notice of Lien was not properly filed with the Register's Office. Finding that supplier had a valid lien, the trial court's judgment is affirmed.



Court: TCCA


Joseph S. Ozment, Memphis, Tennessee, for the defendant-appellant, Corey Gilliam

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter Rachel E. Willis, Assistant Attorney General; William L. Gibbons, District Attorney General; and Dean DeCandia, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.


The Defendant-Appellant, Corey Gilliam, was convicted by a Shelby County jury of theft of property valued at over $1,000, felon in possession of a handgun, leaving the scene of an accident resulting in injury, and driving on a suspended license. He was sentenced to twelve years as a career offender for the theft of property conviction, six years as a career offender for the felon in possession of a handgun conviction, eleven months and twenty-nine days for the leaving the scene of an accident resulting in injury conviction, and eleven months and twenty-nine days for the second or subsequent driving on a suspended license conviction. The trial court ordered the sentences to be served consecutively. In this appeal, the defendant argues: (1) the insufficiency of the evidence; (2) the trial court erred by providing the jury with an instruction on reasonable doubt that was unconstitutional; (3) the trial court erred by finding that the defendant's 2007 conviction for aggravated robbery was admissible for impeachment; (4) the imposition of consecutive sentencing violated the Sixth Amendment; (5) the State failed to elect when the defendant drove on a suspended license in the indictment; and (6) the jury instructions for leaving the scene of an accident resulting in injury and driving on a suspended license failed to charge a mens rea. Following our review, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.



Court: TCCA


Robert C. Richardson, Jr., Columbia, Tennessee, for the appellant, Brandon McCoy.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Clarence E. Lutz, Assistant Attorney General; Mike Bottoms, District Attorney General; and Dan Runde, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, the State of Tennessee.


Following a jury trial, Defendant, Brandon McCoy, was convicted of two counts each of attempted second degree murder, a Class B felony, attempted especially aggravated robbery, a Class B felony, and attempted aggravated robbery, a Class C felony. The trial court sentenced Defendant as a Range I, standard offender, to twelve years for each attempted second degree murder conviction in counts one and two of the indictment, twelve years for each attempted especially aggravated robbery conviction in counts three and four, and six years for each attempted aggravated robbery conviction in counts five and six. The trial court ordered Defendant to serve his sentences in counts one, three, four, five and six of the indictment concurrently. The trial court ordered Defendant to serve his sentence in count two concurrently with counts three, four, five, and six, but consecutively to Defendant's sentence in count one for an effective sentence of twenty-four years. Defendant's convictions were affirmed on appeal, but we remanded for a new sentencing hearing because the trial court failed to make the findings required by State v. Wilkerson, 905 S.W.2d 933 (Tenn. 1995) to support the imposition of consecutive sentencing based on a finding that Defendant was a dangerous offender. State v. Brandon McCoy, No. M2007-00421-CCA-R3-CD, 2008 WL 1774985 (Tenn. Crim. App., at Nashville, April 18, 2008). On remand, the trial court again imposed an effective sentence of twenty-four years. On appeal, Defendant argues that the trial court erred in finding that an extended sentence is necessary to protect the public. After a thorough review, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.



Court: TCCA


Cleo Patterson, Pro Se, Memphis, Tennessee

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Cameron L. Hyder, Assistant Attorney General; William L. Gibbons, District Attorney General; and Alanda H. Dwyer, Assistant District Attorney General, for the Appellee, State of Tennessee.


The Petitioner, Cleo Patterson, pleaded guilty to shoplifting, first degree burglary, sale of marijuana, and DUI in the Montgomery County Circuit Court. He subsequently filed a pro se petition for writ of habeas corpus in the Shelby County Criminal Court which was summarily dismissed. On appeal, the Petitioner argues that the trial court erred in failing to appoint counsel and in failing to grant an evidentiary hearing. He also contends that he is restrained of liberty because of his aforementioned "void" convictions. Upon review, we affirm the judgment summarily dismissing the petition for writ of habeas corpus.



Court: TCCA


Robert W. Jones, District Public Defender; Barry W. Kuhn, Assistant Public Defender, Memphis, Tennessee, for the Defendant-Appellant, Michael Stewart.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; John H. Bledsoe, Senior Counsel General; William L. Gibbons, District Attorney General; and Bryan Davis, Assistant District Attorney General, for the Appellee, State of Tennessee.


The Defendant-Appellant, Michael Stewart, was convicted of destruction or interference with utility lines, a Class E felony, following a bench trial in the Criminal Court of Shelby County. He was sentenced as a multiple offender to three years and three months in the county workhouse. On appeal, Stewart claims the evidence was insufficient to support his conviction because the State did not rebut his defenses of duress and necessity beyond a reasonable doubt. Upon review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.



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