'Super spenders' influencing outcomes of judicial races

A report by the Brennan Center for Justice at the New York University School of Law and two other groups shows campaign fund-raising for elections to the nation's top state courts has doubled to more than $200 million over the last decade. The report, which includes a foreword from Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, also concludes the surge is partly fueled by "super spenders" who invested hundreds of thousands of dollars to influence judicial and other lower profile races.

WRCB-TV carried this AP story

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Court: TSC



Court: TWCA


Kenneth R. Rudstrom and Mildred L. Sabbatini, Memphis, Tennessee, for the appellant, Jimmy Dean Foods.

Jay E. DeGroot, Jackson, Tennessee, for the appellee, Donna Isbell.


Pursuant to Tennessee Supreme Court Rule 51, this workers' compensation appeal has been referred to the Special Workers' Compensation Appeals Panel for a hearing and a report of findings of fact and conclusions of law. The employee alleged that she sustained a repetitive motion injury to her chest and back. Her employer denied liability. Three doctors testified concerning the issues of causation and permanency. The trial court found that the employee had sustained a compensable injury, and awarded 16% permanent partial disability ("PPD") benefits to the body as a whole. On appeal, the employer contends that the trial court erred by awarding any benefits. The employee contends that the award is inadequate. We agree with the employee and increase the award to 30% PPD to the body as a whole and otherwise affirm the judgment of the trial court.



Court: TCA


W. Tyler Chastain and Margo J. Maxwell, Knoxville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Wisteria Park, LLC.

Garrett P. Smartwood, Knoxville, Tennessee, for the appellee, Claiborne Hauling, LLC.


Claiborne Hauling, LLC, contracted with Wisteria Park, LLC, to perform the excavating and grading, including installation of storm sewers and sanitary sewers, for a residential subdivision Wisteria was developing. The contract calls for Claiborne Hauling to commence work on November 6, 2006, with a substantial completion date of April 5, 2007. The contract further provides that Claiborne Hauling will receive a bonus of $500 per day for early completion but will pay a $500 per day "penalty" if completion extends past May 31, 2007. Claiborne did not finish by May 31, 2007. Wisteria "fired" Claiborne Hauling during a heated exchange in August 2007, and confirmed termination of the contract in a letter from counsel. The ground stated for termination is failure to complete the project by May 31, 2007. However, Wisteria did not secure approval of its plans for construction of the sewer system until June 8, 2007. When Wisteria did not pay the invoices and change orders outstanding at the time of the termination, Claiborne Hauling first sent a "prompt pay notice" and then filed this action alleging breach of contract against Wisteria. Wisteria answered and filed a counterclaim asserting, among other things, that it was entitled to recover $500 per day from May 31, 2007, until substantial completion, as liquidated damages. After a bench trial, the court found that Wisteria was guilty of the first material breach and awarded Claiborne Hauling a judgment in the amount of $301,430.62, which included attorney fees under the Prompt Pay Act, Tenn. Code Ann. section 66-34-602 (2004). Wisteria appeals. We affirm.



Court: TCA


Beau E. Pemberton, Dresden, Tennessee, for the appellant, Randy Earls.

M. Scott Smith, Jackson, Tennessee, for the appellee, Joe D. Blankenship, M.D.


This appeal involves a dispute between an employee and his employer regarding whether the employer agreed to pay off the employee's student loans as part of his employment compensation package. Following a bench trial, the trial court found that no valid contract existed, and it dismissed the employee's complaint. The employee appeals. We affirm.



Court: TCA


Gerald Harris, Pro se.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter, Michael E. Moore, Solicitor General, and Kellena Baker, Assistant Attorney General, for the appellee, Tennessee Board of Probation & Parole.


This is an appeal from the dismissal of an inmate's petition for common law writ of certiorari. The petition alleged, inter alia, that the Tennessee Board of Probation and Parole arbitrarily and illegally denied the inmate's request for parole. The Board filed a motion to dismiss the petition pursuant to Rule 12.02(6) of the Tennessee Rules of Civil Procedure. Rather than issue the writ and order the filing of the certified record, the trial court dismissed the petition for failure to state a claim upon which relief could be granted. The inmate appealed. We affirm.



Court: TCA


William J. Reinhart, Shelbyville, Tennessee, Pro Se.

Ralph McBride, Jr., Shelbyville, Tennessee, for the appellee, Rising Star Ranch, LLC.


This case arises from an alleged breach of an agreement to train horses belonging to the Appellant herein. The trial court found that the Appellee training facility performed the agreed upon services, and that the Appellant did not meet his burden to show either breach of contract or damages arising therefrom. Judgment was entered in favor of the Appellee, and the Appellant's case against Appellee was dismissed with prejudice. Discerning no error, we affirm.


With Concurring Opinion

Court: TCCA


Joseph W. Fuson (on appeal), Nashville, Tennessee; Laura Clift, District Public Defender, and Joan Lawson, Assistant Public Defender (at trial), attorneys for appellant, George Washington Matthews.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Brent C. Cherry, Senior Counsel; Victor S. Johnson, III, District Attorney General; and Renee Erb, Assistant District Attorney General, attorneys for appellee, State of Tennessee.


The Defendant, George Washington Matthews, was convicted by a Davidson County Criminal Court jury of facilitation of the sale of 0.5 grams or more of cocaine, a Class C felony, and possession of drug paraphernalia, a Class A misdemeanor. The Defendant was sentenced as a career offender and received an effective sentence of fifteen years to serve in the Tennessee Department of Correction. In this appeal as of right, the Defendant contends that (1) the trial court erred in denying his motion to dismiss his case; (2) the trial court erred in approving the jury's verdict as the thirteenth juror; (3) the evidence was insufficient to sustain his conviction of facilitation of the sale of 0.5 grams or more of cocaine; and (4) the trial court erred in sentencing the Defendant as a career offender. Following our review, we reverse the judgments of the trial court because the trial court failed to fulfill its role as the thirteenth juror. We remand the Defendant's case for a new trial.


WITT concurring


Legal News
Election 2010
TBA Member Services

Chattanoogan William G. Brown dies at 100
Chattanooga attorney William G. Brown died yesterday at the age of 100. Visitation will be tomorrow (Tuesday) from 5 to 7 p.m. at the Wann Funeral Home. Services will be Wednesday, at 11 a.m. at the First Centenary United Methodist Church on McCallie Ave. Mr. Brown received his law degree from Emory University and was a member of the firm of Chambliss, Chambliss and Brown. He was active in the Chattanooga Bar Association, serving on its board of governors and as president of the Association. He was named to serve on the Eastern Division of the Court of Appeals during the illness of one of its members, and served on several occasions as special Chancellor of the Chancery Court of Hamilton County.

The family requests no flowers, but memorials may be made to Alexian Grove, 100 Asbury Oak Lane, Chattanooga 37419; First Centenary United Methodist Church, P. O. Box 208, Chattanooga 37410; Hospice of Chattanooga, P. O. Box 19269, Chattanooga 37416; or a favorite charity.
Read more in the Chattanoogan
Legal News
Bernstein showed leadership when UT needed it
Knoxville lawyer Bernie Bernstein has faced some tough adversaries over his long career but years ago when he was asked to help make the University of Tennessee's medical center an independent entity, it gave him pause. "My blood ran deep orange so it was hard to be an adversary to the university," he recalls. He is now chair of the University Health System Inc. board, the nonprofit organization set up to oversee UT Medical Center. "One of the great advantages of having [Bernstein] as chairman of the board is he always wants to do the right thing and that's what is good for your patients," says Dr. Joe Johnson, who was the university's president at the time. Also, Bernstein was recently named a "Health Care Hero," by the Greater Knoxville Business Journal.

Read more about Bernstein's reputation as a negotiator from the News Sentinel
Irick has 'mental ability of 7 to 9 year old,' lawyers say
Attorneys for convicted killer Billy Ray Irick Monday asked a Knox County judge to find Irick not competent to be executed. The state Supreme Court has set a Dec. 7 execution date for Irick. When the court set the execution date, it also ordered a hearing in the Knox County Criminal Court to determine whether Irick is competent to be executed. Today Irick's attorneys said their client had the mental ability of a seven to nine year old child. The hearing will resume Tuesday.
WBIR reports
Lesson: Don't threaten the judge on your blog
New York jurors deliberated only two hours before convicting right-wing blogger and radio host Harold Turner for an Internet tirade in which he said Judge Richard Posner and two other federal appeals judges "deserved to be killed" and "must die." Turner's mother criticized the verdict saying "There goes the First Amendment for everybody. Since when does words mean you threatened to kill somebody?"
ABAJournal.com connects you to this story
Cannon wants to sell house for legal fees; on NBC tonight
Kelley Cannon, who was convicted of killing her husband, lawyer James Cannon, in their Nashville home in 2008, wants to use money from the home's sale for her appeals and fight the $40 million wrongful death lawsuit her sister-in-law filed on behalf of the Cannons' three children. The woman's attorneys have placed at least $260,000 in liens against the home to pay attorneys fees, according to the Davidson County Register of Deeds. NBC's Dateline plans to air a show on James Cannon's murder tonight, The City Paper reports.
It's complicated, as the Tennessean explains
Volunteer for legal aid phone-a-thon
The Legal Aid Society of Middle Tennessee and the Cumberlands will conduct its Fall Phone-a-thon in October and volunteers are needed to work two-hour shifts at the Legal Aid Society's Nashville office, 300 Deaderick St., on Oct. 5-7 and 12-14. Contact Cindy Durham at (615) 780-7125 or cdurham@las.org if you can volunteer for one or more shifts.

Election 2010
Henry lead trimmed to 11 votes
New numbers from the Davidson County Election Commission show state Sen. Douglas Henry's lead for the Democratic nomination over challenger Jeff Yarbro is now 11 votes. Last week, that number stood at 13, but an Election Commission audit turned up a previously uncounted voting machine. Yarbro has said he plans to ask for a recount once the results are certified, which must happen by Aug. 23.
WSMV-TV reported the news
Zagorski asks for oral argument about execution date
Death row inmate Edmund Zagorski filed 23 exhibits with his Response to Motion to Set Execution Date today and a request for an oral argument on the matter.
The AOC has the filings
TBA Member Services
CompuPay offers deals for TBA members
CompuPay is proud to serve as the official payroll services provider for the Tennessee Bar Association. To serve Tennessee attorneys the company is offering two months of free payroll processing for all TBA members and waiving set up fees for members with up to 99 employees.
Learn more about CompuPay's benefits

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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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