Senate finance leaders consider indigent funding cuts

Details of a plan to pay indigent defense claims only once a quarter -- and then only on a pro rata basis up to the amount available each quarter -- emerged from Senate Republican finance leaders yesterday as state budget discussions continue on Capitol Hill. The proposal makes available $978,000 less than the Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC) believes it will need to pay claims next year. The pro rata language would be made in the law authorizing the AOC to pay claims that could lead to even further constriction of the already inadequate $40 per hour rate afforded lawyers who represent most indigent criminal defendants. The Tennessee Bar Association is contacting leaders in the House and Senate to resist the change and the cut in funding.
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Court: TCA


Kathy Baker Tennison, Memphis, Tennessee, for the appellant, Michael Todd Highfill.

James D. Lawson, Memphis, Tennessee, for the appellee, Heather (Highfill) Moody.


This case arises from a petition to enroll and modify a foreign decree on child visitation and support. Appellant/Father petitioned the Circuit Court at Shelby County to enroll and modify an Arkansas decree. Mother/Appellee contested the petition, alleging that she was still a resident of Arkansas, so that Arkansas retained exclusive, continuing subject matter jurisdiction. The trial court found that the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act was applicable, and also found that Mother was still residing in Arkansas so as to bar subject matter jurisdiction in favor of the Tennessee court. Because the case involves a petition to modify both child visitation and child support, we conclude: (1) that both the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act, and the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act are applicable,(2) that the trial court erred in finding that the Mother was residing in Arkansas at the commencement of this action, and (3) the Tennessee Court has jurisdiction to modify the Arkansas decree on child support and custody, and (4) that the trial court erred in dismissing Father's petition to enroll, and modify the Arkansas decree. Reversed and remanded.


Court: TCA


Charles M. Clifford, Maryville, Tennessee, appellant, Pro Se.

James H. Snyder, Jr., Alcoa, Tennessee, for the appellee, W. Curtis Jordan.


W. Curtis Jordan sued his former attorney, Charles Clifford, alleging breach of contract, fraudulent conversion of property, and violation of the Tennessee Consumer Protection Act ("the TCPA"). The case proceeded to a jury trial. At the close of Jordan's proof, the court dismissed the consumer protection claim based upon its holding that the TCPA did not apply to the providing of professional services by an attorney. As to the remaining claims, the jury returned a verdict in favor of Jordan for breach of contract and awarded him $2,500 in damages. On appeal, Clifford contends that the trial court erred in entering a judgment on the breach of contract claim and in failing to award him the attorney's fees he incurred in defending the consumer protection claim. We affirm.


Court: TCA


Robert L. Winchester, Jr., Memphis, Tennessee, for the appellant, Lakeland Commons, L.P.

John D. Burleson, Jesse D. Nelson, Jackson, Tennessee, for the appellees, Town of Lakeland, Tennessee, et al


Developer sought approval to construct a planned development containing retail and office uses on property zoned in an agricultural district. The municipal planning commission recommended that the town's board of commissioners deny the application for several reasons. Following a public hearing, the board of commissioners voted to deny the application based upon the recommendation of the municipal planning commission. The developer then brought a common law certiorari action, alleging that the board acted arbitrarily and illegally in denying its application. The trial court found that the board's decision was based upon substantial and material evidence and dismissed the developer's petition. The developer appeals. We affirm.

Corrected Opinion: Correction on page 1 and in the style of the case

Court: TCA


Robbie C. Lewis, Kingsport, Tennessee, for the appellant, Wanda B.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter, and Douglas Earl Dimond, Senior Counsel, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellee, State of Tennessee, Department of Children's Services.


The Department of Children's Services filed a Motion in Juvenile Court, seeking adjudication that Victoria S. was a severely abused child pursuant to Tenn. Code. Ann. section 37-1-102. Upon an adverse ruling in the Juvenile Court, the State appealed to the Circuit Court where the Trial Court held that DCS had failed to prove by clear and convincing evidence that the mother knowing failed to protect the child, but held that the mother was guilty of severe child abuse, based upon her criminal conviction. On appeal, we reverse the Judgment of the Trial Court.


Court: TCCA


Michael V. Morris, Pro Se, Only, Tennessee.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter, and Deshea Dulany Faughn, Assistant Attorney General, for the Appellee, State of Tennessee.


The Petitioner, Michael V. Morris, was convicted by a Davidson County Criminal Court jury of aggravated robbery, a Class B felony. He was sentenced as a Range III, career offender to thirty years at sixty percent in the Tennessee Department of Correction. He filed a pro se petition for habeas corpus relief in the Hickman County Circuit Court, which was summarily dismissed. On appeal, the Petitioner argues that his judgment is void because it violates Blakely v. Washington, 542 U.S. 296, 124 S. Ct. 2531 (2004); because, alternatively, the trial court improperly sentenced him under the 2005 amended sentencing act without a waiver, which resulted in a violation of ex post facto prohibitions; and because the trial court erred in classifying him as a career offender. Upon review, we affirm the judgment summarily dismissing the petition for writ of habeas corpus.


Legal News
Legislative News
Flood Impact
TBA Member Services

Legal News
O'Connor: In praise of merit selection
Calling it a "better system," former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor writes in an opinion piece how merit selection of state court judges protects the impartiality of the judiciary without sacrificing accountability. She points out that this year, 16 states will hold contested elections for seats on their highest courts, and candidates will raise and spend millions of dollars for their campaigns. "In 2008 alone," she writes, "nearly $20 million was spent on TV advertising in contested elections for 26 state supreme court seats."
Read the opinion piece in The New York Times
'Waltz' prosecutor retiring from U.S. attorney's office
The federal prosecutor who put state Sen. John Ford and other Tennessee Waltz defendants in prison is retiring. Tim DiScenza confirmed this afternoon that he is retiring at the end of the month after 33 years with the U.S. Attorney's Office.
The Commerial Appeal reported the news
TJC honors mothers
Three Rutherford County mothers are being honored by the Tennessee Justice Center as 2010 Community Mothers of the Year. Learn more about each of them from
the Daily News Journal
Police investigation stats stolen from lawyer's office
Jack Byrd, a lawyer for the Teamsters union when it represented Nashville's police officers, said materials that are part of a private investigation about the way former Police Chief Ronal Serpas kept Nashville crime statistics were stolen from Byrd's Murfreesboro Pike offices this month.
Read about it in the Tennessean
Crime down, FBI report says
The FBI reported the third straight year of declines in crime, with a large drop in 2009, bucking a historical trend that links rising crime rates to economic woes. Property crimes and violent offenses each declined about 5 percent, the FBI said Monday in its report. According to the new report, Shelby County has the highest crime rate in Tennessee at nearly 152 crimes per 1,000 people, followed by Madison County, Davidson County and rural Campbell County.
The Commercial Appeal has more
Legislative News
Praising Arizona passes
On Monday, the House argued over a resolution that praises Arizona and its elected officials for adopting a state law on illegal immigration, but ultimately approved the measure 67-27. House Democratic Leader Gary Odom of Nashville said that the state's tourism industry could be damaged by passage of HJR1253. But the sponsor, Rep. Joe Carr, R-Lascassas, said his purpose was to "stand with a sister state" and say, "You're doing the right thing by protecting your citizens in Arizona."
The News Sentinel has the story
Flood Impact
Walk-in clinic for flood victims set for May 26
On Wednesday, May 26, the Legal Aid Society will host a walk-in legal clinic for storm victims at its offices at 300 Deaderick Street in downtown Nashville. Interested individuals should arrive at 5 p.m. The Legal Aid Society and the Nashville Pro Bono Program are working to make sure that those with legal questions about the flood will have a chance to speak privately with a lawyer. "Those who suffered flood damage have lots of questions," said Lucinda Smith, managing attorney of the Nashville office and director of the Nashville Pro Bono Program. "They want to know about insurance claims, FEMA relief, the Small Business Administration, damage to vehicles or landlord tenant issues. We will give information and assess whether individuals need a volunteer lawyer who can give more help."

A toll-free legal assistance line -- (888) 395-9297 -- continues to be available for flood victims in the counties that have been designated as federal disaster areas.
Volunteer to help or learn more about recovery efforts
Counties added to disaster list, for limited services
Henry and Campbell Counties have now received a disaster declaration for public assistance only. This means there is no aid available for individuals, but governments and nonprofits may benefit.

Free! Get trained to give legal services to flood victims
Take part in a one-hour free web cast that will provide an overview of disaster legal services in Tennessee and equip volunteer lawyers to handle disaster-related pro bono cases. Using a YLD-produced Disaster Assistance Manual as a guide, the presenters will identify the types of legal issues that most frequently arise after a natural disaster, and highlight the resources available for lawyers who volunteer to help disaster victims.
Learn more here
Investiture for Judge Hurd June 9
Gov. Phil Bredesen will administer the oath of office to Judge Rhynette Northcross Hurd in an investiture ceremony June 9 at 3 p.m. at the County Commission Chambers in the Shelby County Administration Building. A reception will follow at the Shelby County Courthouse. Hurd fills the seat left open by the resignation of Judge D'Army Bailey.

Lincoln's life examined in national exhibit
A national traveling exhibit that examines Abraham Lincoln's life, accomplishments, and legacy opens at the downtown Chattanooga Public Library on Wednesday for four weeks.
Read for related Lincoln events
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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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