Suit against public defenders could have broad impact

A class-action suit filed by the New York Civil Liberties Union and scheduled to be argued next week has become a test of a national strategy by civil liberties groups to challenge what they say are failed public defender programs in many states. Because an estimated 80 percent of felony defendants in large states are too poor to hire their own lawyers, and because the case is being watched around the nation, many believe it has the potential to alter the shape of the criminal justice system. The group's primary claim is that indigent clients have been failed by their appointed lawyers and case-by-case reviews of those failures have proved inadequate. In recent years, similar cases have been heard in Connecticut, Indiana, Minnesota, Montana and Washington. The Michigan Supreme Court is to consider a challenge to its public defender program next month.

The New York Times has the story

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Court: TCCA


J. Daniel Freemon, Lawrenceburg, Tennessee, for the appellant, Joann Brewer.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Matthew Bryant Haskell, Assistant Attorney General; Mike Bottoms, District Attorney General; and Doug Dicus, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.


The Defendant, Joann Brewer, was charged with and convicted of three counts of selling greater than .5 grams of methamphetamine, a Class B felony. See Tenn. Code Ann. section 39-17- 417(c)(1). She was sentenced as a Range I, standard offender to twelve years for each conviction and ordered to serve one of her twelve year sentences consecutively to the other two, which were to be served concurrently with each other, for a total effective sentence of twenty-four years in the Department of Correction. In this direct appeal, the Defendant argues that the trial court erred: (1) in overruling her motion for a mistrial after the State made certain remarks during its closing argument; (2) in admitting a booking sheet not properly authenticated as a business record; and (3) in setting the length of her sentence and ordering her to serve consecutive sentences. After our review, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.


Court: TCCA


Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Benjamin A. Ball, Assistant Attorney General; Kim R. Helper, District Attorney General; and Michael J. Fahey, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellant, State of Tennessee.

William C. Barnes, Jr., Columbia, Tennessee, for the appellee, Joseph L. Chadwick.

Judge: GLENN

The defendant, Joseph L. Chadwick, a correctional employee with the Hickman County Sheriff's Department, was charged with having sexual contact with an inmate. Thereafter, the defendant filed a motion to suppress his statement to Detective Scott Smith in which he admitted being inappropriately involved with an inmate. The trial court granted the defendant's motion and because the suppression of the defendant's statement left the State with insufficient evidence to proceed to trial, the trial court dismissed the indictment. The State appeals the trial court's grant of the defendant's motion to suppress. After review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.


Court: TCCA


Nathan Moore, Nashville, Tennessee, for the Defendant-Appellant, Michael Collins Reed.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Matthew Bryant Haskell, Assistant Attorney General; Victor S. Johnson, III, District Attorney General; and Brian Ewald, Assistant District Attorney General, for the Appellee, State of Tennessee.


The Defendant-Appellant, Michael Collins Reed, appeals his sentence following the revocation of his probation. He originally pled guilty to attempted aggravated robbery, a Class C felony, and was sentenced as a multiple offender to eight years of confinement in the Tennessee Department of Correction. This sentence was suspended to ten years of supervised probation. Because this was Reed's third probation violation, the trial court placed his eight-year sentence for attempted aggravated robbery into effect. On appeal, Reed concedes the probation violation, but argues the trial court should have reinstated his probation or imposed a rehabilitative sentence that addressed his drug addiction. Upon review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Private Act Authorizing Hancock County to Operate Home Health Agency Outside County

TN Attorney General Opinions

Date: 2010-03-16

Opinion Number: 10-33


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Legal News
No new juvenile judge for Shelby County
The state Supreme Court has declined to hear an appeal of a decision not to appoint a second judge in Shelby County Juvenile Court, meaning there will be no new judge unless the legislature acts. The county commission voted in 2006 to add another judge and a local chancellor ruled the commission could create the new position. Last fall, the Court of Appeals reversed the decision. That ruling now stands.
The Commercial Appeal has more
West Va. to publicly finance high court races
West Virginia is set to become the fourth state to publicly finance elections for its Supreme Court justices. According to the Charleston Gazette, the legislature approved a pilot program proposed by the governor, as well as a bill creating a nonpartisan commission to recommend nominees when midterm vacancies occur. The state made news last year when a justice received more than $3 million in contributions from a coal-mining executive and did not recuse himself from a case involving the donor.
The ABA Journal reports
Federal courts to provide audio of trials
Federal judges have voted to make digital audio recordings of some trials and hearings available for a small fee. They also have approved cuts in fees for users of online federal court records. Under the proposal, audio files will cost $2.40 and be available soon after court proceedings conclude, although judges may withhold the files in some cases. For users of online records, no charges will be incurred unless the user views more than $10 worth of pages in a quarter.
News Channel 11 has this AP report
Med mal law has mixed results
Changes in Tennessee's medical malpractice laws has produced a dramatic drop in the number of lawsuits filed according to data released by the Tennessee Administrative Office of the Courts. Anecdotal reports by doctors, however, indicate little relief in malpractice insurance premiums. Under legislation passed in 2008, patients must give a 60-day notice before filing a malpractice lawsuit and get documentation that the claim has merit. Data shows a 59 percent drop in suits since the law went into effect. By contrast, physicians report they have not seen a dramatic decrease in insurance premiums; but have not had dramatic increases either.
The News Sentinel reports
State purges dead voters
The Tennessee Secretary of State has removed more than 10,000 dead voters from state election rolls as part of an effort to clean up records. Issues regarding dead voters came to light in a 2005 when the identities of dead voters were used to cast ballots in a tight senatorial race.
The Memphis Daily News reports
Judge cracks down on smuggling in jail
Coffee County General Sessions Judge Jere Ledsinger is cracking down on the smuggling of illegal drugs and alcohol inside a local jail. Believing that inmates working outside the jail are responsible for the contraband, Ledsinger has announced that his sentences will no longer include the option of work detail or release. Some are expressing concern the decision could lead to jail overcrowding and cost the county nearly $1.5 million every year in lost free labor.
Channel 5 brings you the story
UT trial advocacy team competes in finals
The University of Tennessee College of Law recently sent two teams to the American Association for Justice National Student Trial Advocacy Competition. The 2L team defeated Rutgers, Connecticut and Fordham before finishing second in the regional finals. The 3L team posted a 2-1 record, winning six of nine judges overall and finishing fifth overall.

Mock trial volunteers needed
Lawyers are still needed to volunteer for the state high school mock trial competition this coming Friday and Saturday, especially at 3 p.m. on Friday and at 12:30 p.m. on Saturday. Volunteering as a scorer at the state competition is an excellent way to give back to students in the state as well as network with colleagues. Contact Tennessee Mock Trial Chair Marisa Combs at or (615) 259-1366 for more information.
Download a response form
Memphis event honors pro bono volunteers
Memphis Area Legal Services, in partnership with the Memphis Bar Association's Access to Justice Committee, Morgan Keegan & Company and Sun Life Financial, is hosting a Pro Bono Volunteer Appreciation Reception on March 26 from 5:30 to 8 p.m. The event will be held at the Regions Bank Headquarters, 6200 Poplar Ave. To attend, please RSVP to Linda Warren Seely at by March 19.

Supreme Court Report
Stevens to make retirement decision soon
The U.S. Supreme Court's oldest member, Justice John Paul Stevens, says he will decide in the next month or so whether this term will be his last. In an interview with The New Yorker magazine, though, he says he will definitely retire in the next three years.
Read the full interview
TBA in the News
TBA evaluating custody trends
The TBA is speaking out with its concerns about a bill that would evenly split child custody in divorce cases. Executive Director Allan Ramsaur talks about the issues in a story from the Tennessean, which also ran in the Clarksville Leaf Chronicle, Johnson City Press, Knoxville News-Sentinel and Memphis Commercial Appeal. The stories also note that legislative leaders have asked the TBA to provide data on child custody decisions to help guide their deliberations.
Read the story in the Tennessean
TBA Member Services
Think FedEx first
If you've been shipping with other carriers, it's time to switch to FedEx. Not only will you get peace of mind from reliable FedEx shipping, but you can also take advantage of great savings on FedEx shipping as well as FedEx Office services by enrolling in the FedEx member benefits program.
Take advantage of your member discounts on select FedEx shipping services and FedEx Office business services

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