Breaking language barriers a challenge to court

A shortage of interpreters is causing problems for judges, lawyers and advocates across the state, but a new committee created under the Tennessee Supreme Court's Access to Justice Commission is working to improve the system for people with language barriers and people with disabilities. A story in the Tennessean looks at some of the problems and what is being done to tackle them.

Read more in the Tennessean

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Court: TSC


Robert E. Cooper, Attorney General and Reporter; Michael E. Moore, Solicitor General; and Rachel E. Willis, Assistant Attorney General; Hansel McCadams, District Attorney General, and Steven Jackson, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellant, State of Tennessee.

Matthew M. Maddox, Huntingdon, Tennessee, for the appellee, Mike Brotherton.

Judge: KOCH

This appeal involves an intoxicated driver who was stopped after a law enforcement officer saw what he believed to be a broken taillight on the driver's automobile. In his prosecution for driving under the influence in the Circuit Court for Carroll County, the driver asserted that the taillight did not provide the officer with reasonable suspicion to stop his automobile. After the trial court denied his motion, the driver pleaded guilty to driving under the influence but reserved the question of the legality of the traffic stop in accordance with Tenn. R. Crim. P. 37(b)(2). The Court of Criminal Appeals reversed the conviction and dismissed the indictment after finding that the officer lacked reasonable suspicion to make the traffic stop. State v. Brotherton, No. W2007-02016-CCA-R3-CD, 2009 WL 1097446 (Tenn. Crim. App. Apr. 23, 2009). We granted the State's application for permission to appeal to address the application of the reasonable suspicion standard in circumstances involving apparently broken taillights. Based on the undisputed facts, we conclude that the trial court's determination that the trooper had reasonable suspicion to initiate a traffic stop was correct.


Court: TSC


Court: TCA


Byron D. Bryant, Knoxville, Tennessee, for the appellants, Floyd L. Fletcher and Fayda S. Fletcher.

Toby R. Carpenter, Knoxville, Tennessee, for the appellee, Consumers Insurance USA, Inc.


Mr. Fletcher, who was injured in an automobile accident involving an uninsured motorist, sued the insurance company after it denied uninsured motorist benefits under his towing policy. Insurance company filed a motion for summary judgment claiming that the towing policy did not provide uninsured motorist coverage for Mr. Fletcher's accident because it involved a non-covered auto. After a hearing on the motion, the trial court granted summary judgment to the insurance company. Mr. and Mrs. Fletcher appeal. We affirm.


Court: TCA


Melissa A. Downing, Jackson, Tennessee, for the appellant, Chris K.

Lanis L. Karnes, Jackson, Tennessee, Guardian Ad Litem.


This is a termination of parental rights case. Father/Appellant appeals the trial court's termination of his parental rights to the minor child on grounds of: (1) abandonment by willful failure to support and willful failure to visit, as defined at Tenn. Code Ann. section 36-1-102(1)(A)(i); and (2) persistence of conditions as set out at Tenn. Code Ann. section 36-1- 113(g)(3). Finding that there is clear and convincing evidence in the record to support these grounds, as well as clear and convincing evidence that termination of Appellant's parental rights is in the best interests of this child, we affirm.


Court: TCCA


J. Daniel Freemon, Lawrenceburg, Tennessee, for the appellant, Kathy M. Pennington.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter, Clark B. Thornton, Assistant Attorney General; and Mike Bottoms, District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: SMITH

Appellant, Kathy M. Pennington, was indicted by the Lawrence County Grand Jury for one count of possession of oxycodone, a Schedule II controlled substance. After the trial court denied Appellant's motion to suppress, Appellant pled guilty to the charge. As part of her guilty plea, Appellant reserved a certified question for appeal arguing that the trial court erred in denying the motion to suppress. After a thorough review of the record, we conclude that the evidence does not preponderate against the factual findings of the trial court that Appellant consented to the search. Therefore, we affirm the decision of the trial court.


Court: TCCA


Brent Hensley, Greeneville, Tennessee (on appeal); and Francis X. Santore, Jr., Greeneville, Tennessee (at trial and on appeal), for the appellant, Terri K. Teaster.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Cameron L. Hyder, Assistant Attorney General; C. Berkeley Bell, District Attorney General; and John Chalmers Thompson, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: WITT

A Greene County Criminal Court jury convicted the defendant, Terri K. Teaster, of vehicular assault, and the trial court imposed a sentence of four years' incarceration. In this appeal, the defendant contends that the evidence was insufficient to support her conviction, that the State improperly remarked on the defendant's right not to testify, and that the four-year, fully-incarcerative sentence is excessive. Discerning no error, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.


Court: TCCA


J. Liddell Kirk, Knoxville, Tennessee (on appeal); and Mack Garner, District Public Defender (at trial), for the appellant, Michael D. Willis.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; John H. Bledsoe, Senior Counsel; and Kathy Aslinger, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.


The Defendant, Michael D. Willis, appeals the Blount County Circuit Court's order revoking his probation for promotion of methamphetamine manufacture, a Class D felony, and ordering him to serve his three-year sentence in the Department of Correction. We hold that the trial court did not abuse its discretion, and we affirm the judgment.


Legal News
Disciplinary Actions
Your Practice
TBA Member Services
TennBarU CLE

Legal News
Lockett faces BPR hearing
Former Knox County Law Director Bill Lockett today asked a three-attorney panel to spare his law license. The Tennessee Board of Professional Responsibility will determine whether he faces any disciplinary action after pleading guilty to both federal and state charges earlier this year. Lockett, who resigned from his post as the county's top lawyer in April, has admitted to taking $63,000 meant for his former law firm, Kennerly, Montgomery & Finley.
Read more from
New Nashville courthouse may be closer to reality
A new Nashville federal courthouse may be coming closer to reality. The project sits at No. 2 on the Judicial Conference's five-year plan of ready-to-build courthouses and is set to receive $173 million in federal funds next year, the City Paper reports. Studies first deemed the Estes Kefauver Federal Courthouse inadequate in 1992.
Read more from the City Paper
Belmont seeking mentors for first law school class
Belmont University's new College of Law is seeking about 50 Middle Tennessee attorneys to serve as mentors for its first class of students, who will enter the program in August 2011. Two first-year students will be assigned to each mentor, who will be asked to invite them to trials, client interviews and other important meetings; join them at social events; guide them as they evaluate practice areas; and generally help them transition from law school to legal practice. For information, contact Lisa McGuire at or (615) 460-8400.

Law student bar elects officers
The University of Tennessee Student Bar Association has elected three new officers. They are: At-Large Representative Abby Smith and 1L Representatives Annie Ellis and Todd Skelton.

Groundbreaking set for Belmont law school
Groundbreaking ceremonies for Belmont University's new College of Law will be held Oct. 14 at 10 a.m. on campus at the corner of Acklen Ave. and 15th Avenue South. To learn more, contact Belmont at (615) 460-6656 or

Services yesterday for Elizabethton attorney Bowers
Services were held Sunday for Elizabethton lawyer and former U.S. Attorney John L. Bowers Jr., who died Thursday at the age of 86. A Vanderbilt University Law School graduate, Mr. Bowers received his license to practice law on Nov. 3, 1951, and was the senior partner in the Elizabethton Law Firm of Allen, Nelson and Bowers for nearly 18 years. He also served for eight and a half years as the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Tennessee, and was active in civic and professional organizations, serving as Elizabethton mayor, president of the Carter County Bar Association and earlier, the Tennessee Bar Association's Junior Division. Memorials donations may be made to First Baptist Church of Elizabethton, 212 East F Street, Elizabethton, TN 37643. Condolences may be sent to the family by visiting and signing the guestbook or by faxing comments to (423) 542-9499.

Services Tuesday for Nashville attorney Abbey
Services will be held tomorrow (Tuesday) morning for Nashville attorney Alfred E. Abbey, who died Sunday at the age of 81. A member in the law firm Miller & Martin, Mr. Abbey was a 1957 graduate of the Vanderbilt University Law School, where he served as managing editor of the Vanderbilt Law Review. After graduation, he worked for the U.S. Department of Justice in Washington D.C. and later for the Life Casualty Insurance Company of Tennessee and the law firm then known as Trabue, Minick, Sturdivant & Harbison. He practiced at this firm and its successors for the next 40 years, and was engaged in the active practice of law until the sudden onset of his final illness. A funeral mass will be held 10 a.m., Tuesday, at St. Henry, 6401 Harding Road, Nashville, followed by interment in Calvary Cemetery. Memorial contributions may be made in his name to either the St. Cecilia Academy Kathleen Dyer Abbey Endowed Scholarship Fund or the Father Ryan Alfred E. Abbey Jr. Endowed Scholarship Fund.

Disciplinary Actions
Davidson County lawyer censured
On Sept. 24, Davidson County lawyer Kathleen M. Kirt received a public censure from the Board of Professional Responsibility of the Tennessee Supreme Court. The board took the action after she permitted a statute of limitations on a workers' compensation case to lapse despite receiving three notifications of an offer of settlement. The board found that she also did not advise her client that the statute of limitations had expired.
Download the BPR's notice
Three lawyers reinstated after CLE suspension
Bobby Davis of Madison, Jonathan W. Vincent Jr. of Chattanooga and C. Allen Yates of Atlanta have been reinstated to the practice of law after complying with requirements for continuing legal education. They all were suspended on Sept. 7 for failing to meet 2009 CLE requirements.
View all attorneys suspended and reinstated for 2009 CLE violations
Your Practice
Changes suggest big drop in associate jobs
Outsourcing, efficiencies gained through technology, and increased hiring of staff attorneys could mean a different mix of staff and associate lawyers -- and an overall reduction of as many as 17,500 associate and staff attorney jobs in the next few years, an analyst at law firm consultant Hildebrandt writes in her blog.
Read the post from Lisa Smith at Hildebrandt Baker Robbins
TBA Member Services
Program offers savings on auto insurance
See how being a member of the TBA could help you save 8 percent on car insurance. GEICO offers 24-hour sales, service and claims. Call GEICO at (800) 368-2734
or get an online rate quote
TennBarU CLE
Learn the basics of Health Care Law
If you are new to health law or are someone who represents health care clients on legal matters and need an overview of the major areas of law regulating health care clients, the 10th Annual TBA Health Law Primer is for you. Held Oct. 6 in Cool Springs, the Health Law Primer will provide a general health law overview, and have experienced health care leaders discussing hot topics facing the "players" in the health care industry -- including physicians, hospitals, insurers and the government.
Find out more or register now

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