'Celebrate Pro Bono Month' in full swing

More than 40 lawyers -- including Memphis Mayor A C Wharton and Tennessee Supreme Court Justice Janice Holder -- assisted 117 clients at Saturday's Legal Advice Clinic in Memphis. The event was part of Celebrate Pro Bono Month and was put on by Memphis Area Legal Services, along with the Memphis Access to Justice Committee and the Memphis Bar Association YLD.

Legal clinics, public education seminars, "Wills for Heroes" events, pro bono recognitions and free CLEs for lawyers wanting to know how to help, are among the more than 30 events planned across the state in October. See where you can get involved.

Learn more about Celebrate Pro Bono Month

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Court: TCA


James H. Price, Knoxville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Samuel Robert Morton d/b/a Morton Construction.

Brent W. Johnson, Maryville, Tennessee, for the appellee, APAC-Atlantic, Inc.


The plaintiff, APAC-Atlantic, Inc. ("APAC"), filed this lawsuit against the defendant, Samuel Robert Morton d/b/a Morton Construction, for breach of contract. APAC moved for a default judgment after Mr. Morton failed to answer APAC's complaint within the allowable time limit established by Tenn. R. Civ. P. 12.01. The trial court entered a default judgment, awarding APAC $106,776.20 in damages. Thereafter, Mr. Morton filed a motion to have the default judgment set aside under Tenn. R. Civ. P. 55.02. After a hearing, the trial court determined that Mr. Morton was not entitled to relief from the final judgment. Mr. Morton appealed. We affirm.



Court: TCA


Amanda K. Strange, Memphis, Tennessee for the Plaintiff/Appellant, Stephen Ball.

Darryl D. Gresham and Harry W. Lebair IV, Memphis, Tennessee, for the Defendant/Appellee, Theodore Shockley.

Judge: KIRBY

This is an appeal from the denial of a Rule 60.02 motion. The plaintiff sued the defendant for injuries arising out of a car accident. Several months later, the defendant filed a motion for summary judgment. The motion was not opposed, and was granted. The plaintiff later retained new counsel and filed a motion for relief pursuant to Rule 60.02 of the Tennessee Rules of Civil Procedure. The trial court denied the plaintiff's motion for relief, commenting that even if the order were set aside, it would nevertheless grant the motion. The plaintiff now appeals. We affirm, finding no abuse of discretion by the trial court.



Court: TCA


Daniel A. Seward, Memphis, Tennessee, for the appellant, James Fortune, as substituted by Bettye Bedwell, Bankruptcy Trustee.

S. Russell Headrick and Leigh M. Chiles, Knoxville, Tennessee, for the appellees, Unum Life Insurance Company of America and The Unum Group, f/k/a Unum Provident Corporation.


This appeal arises out of an alleged wrongful denial of long term disability benefits. The plaintiff/appellant filed suit asserting multiple causes of action against an insurance company that contracted to provide long term disability insurance to employees of the City of Germantown. The defendants/appellees, the insurance company and its parent corporation, moved for summary judgment arguing, inter alia, that the applicable statutory and contractual limitations periods barred each of the plaintiff's causes of action. The trial court agreed and granted summary judgment in favor of the defendants. We affirm.



Court: TCA


James R. Wyrick, Knoxville, Tennessee, pro se appellant.

Zachary B. Tenry, Knoxville, Tennessee, for the appellee, The Hartford.


The defendant, acting pro se, appeals the entry of a default judgment entered against him in a subrogation action. After a thorough review of the record before us, we affirm the ruling of the trial court.



Court: TCA


James H. Drescher, Drescher & Sharp, P.C., Nashville Tennessee, for Plaintiff/Appellant, Lynne Pilkerton Hudson.

William D. Bowen, Kizer, Bonds, Hughes & Brown, PLLC, Milan, Tennessee, for Defendant/Appellee Foster Eugene Hudson, Sr.

Judge: KIRBY

This is an interlocutory appeal involving intercounty transfer of post-divorce matters. The divorce was granted in Carroll County, Tennessee. The mother and the parties' minor child reside in Davidson County, Tennessee. The father once resided in Carroll County, but has since moved to Georgia. The father filed a motion in the Carroll County trial court seeking modification of child support, alimony, and the parenting plan. The mother filed a request to transfer the case to Davidson County. The Carroll County trial court granted the transfer as to the child support and parenting plan issues, but denied transfer as to the alimony issues. Both the trial court and the appellate court granted the mother's request for permission for an interlocutory appeal. We affirm in part, reverse in part, and remand, finding that the entire case must be transferred to Davidson County.



Court: TCA


Bradley C. Ball, Lakeland, Tennessee, for the Appellant, Glenn S.

Kevin W. Weaver and Lundy B. Carpenter, Memphis, Tennessee, for the Appellees, John W. W. Jr., Stephanie L. W., and Lindsey B. W.

Melinda Jewell, Memphis, Tennessee, Guardian ad Litem.

Judge: KIRBY

This appeal involves the termination of parental rights. The child at issue was born to teenage parents who never married and have long-term, continuing problems with substance abuse. As a result of his substance abuse, the father has been in and out of prison for much of the child's life. The child has lived with the petitioners, the maternal grandfather and maternal step-grandmother, who filed a petition to terminate the parental rights of both parents and adopt the child. The mother subsequently joined in the petition. After a trial, the trial court terminated the father's parental rights, finding abandonment by, inter alia, engaging in conduct prior to incarceration that exhibits a wanton disregard for the welfare of the child. The father now appeals. We affirm, finding that the undisputed evidence supports the trial court's finding on the ground of abandonment by wanton disregard, and that termination of the father's parental rights is in the child's best interest.



Court: TCA


Roger A. Miller, Esq., pro se Appellant.

Shelley S. Breeding and David L. Dothard, Knoxville, Tennessee, for the Appellee, Kimberly Summers Welch.


Kimberly Summers Welch ("Mother") gave birth to Aaron A. (the "Child") on July 14, 2004. Prior to the birth, Roger A. Miller ("Father") filed a petition seeking to establish paternity. After the Child was born and a DNA test established that Father was the biological father, Father was ordered to pay $235 per month in child support. This amount was specifically held not to be presumptively correct and Mother was allowed additional time to pursue her claim that Father's income was such that he should pay more child support. The Trial Court eventually found that Father was capable of earning or presently was earning $40,000 annually. Father also was ordered to pay 10% of Mother's attorney fees. Father appeals both determinations. Mother requests an award of attorney fees incurred on appeal. We affirm the judgment of the Trial Court and award Mother her attorney fees incurred in this appeal.



Court: TCCA


Lance Chism, Memphis, Tennessee, for the appellant, Trevor Ford.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Benjamin A. Ball, Assistant Attorney General; William L. Gibbons, District Attorney General; and David Zak, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.


The Petitioner, Trevor Ford, appeals as of right from the Shelby County Criminal Court's denial of his petition for post-conviction relief. In 2007, the Petitioner was convicted by a jury of second degree murder and sentenced to twenty-two years. On appeal, he argues that the denial of his petition was error because he did not receive the effective assistance of counsel at trial. Specifically, he contends that counsel failed to introduce evidence of specific violent acts by the victim, failed to secure testimony establishing the victim's reputation for violence, and failed to pursue funding for a forensic pathologist. Additionally, he argues that the refusal to grant funds for an expert at the post-conviction level denies him fundamental due process and amounts to cruel and unusual punishment. Following our review of the record and the parties' briefs, we conclude that the Petitioner has not shown that he is entitled to relief. The judgment of the post-conviction court is affirmed.



Court: TCCA


Lance R. Chism, Memphis, Tennessee, for the appellant, Roosevelt Morris.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Cameron L. Hyder, Assistant Attorney General; William L. Gibbons, District Attorney General; and Chris West, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: OGLE

Petitioner Roosevelt Morris was convicted of two counts of attempted murder, and received an effective sentence of fifty years in the Tennessee Department of Correction. This court affirmed the conviction on appeal but reduced his sentence to forty-seven years. Petitioner filed a petition for post-conviction relief, arguing that his counsel was deficient for (1) failing to object to the State's questions and closing arguments concerning Petitioner's post-arrest silence; (2) failing to object to other prosecutorial misconduct during the closing argument; and (3) failing to have the magazine and the unfired bullet in the firearm used in the crime examined for fingerprint evidence. Petitioner also contends that his sentence violated Blakely v. Washington, 542 U.S. 296 (2004), and its progeny. We affirm.



Court: TCCA


Richard Rehagen, Pro se.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; David H. Finley, Assistant Attorney General; D. Michael Dunavant, District Attorney General; for the appellee.

Judge: OGLE

Petitioner Richard Rehagen filed a pro se habeas corpus petition challenging the validity of his guilty pleas to one count of first degree murder, one count of attempted first degree murder, and one count of aggravated arson. He now appeals the habeas court's decision to summarily dismiss the petition for failing to state a cognizable claim. Upon review, we affirm.



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Celebrate Pro Bono
Election 2010
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Legal News
Loan forgiveness for lawyers who go into public service
The deadline for local, state, and federal public defenders and local and state prosecutors to apply for loan repayment assistance is fast approaching. The John R. Justice Prosecutors and Defenders Incentive Act was enacted "to encourage qualified attorneys to choose careers as prosecutors and public defenders and to continue in that service." The program provides loan repayment assistance for lawyers who commit to continued employment as public defenders and prosecutors for at least three years. The application deadline is Nov. 15.
Read more about the loan forgiveness program guidelines and get an application
Fortune-telling ban blocked by federal judge
Chief U.S. District Judge Curtis L. Collier granted on Oct. 8 relief sought in a suit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee on behalf of Candice Wohlfeil, a disabled grandmother who describes herself as a "spiritualist." The temporary restraining order allows Wohlfeil to reopen the booth where she had been reading tarot cards for three years before the city threatened a fine that forced her to shut down. She had filed a lawsuit that says the ordinance violates her free-speech rights.
The First Amendment Center carried this AP story
Stevens' prosecutors will not be punished
A federal judge today lifted the civil contempt finding against a senior Justice Department lawyer who participated in the post-conviction proceedings in the Ted Stevens prosecution in Washington. Stevens represented Alaska in the Senate for 40 years but lost the seat after his conviction on corruption charges. He died in a plane crash two months ago. Judge Emmet Sullivan of Washington federal district court later dismissed the conviction and ordered a criminal investigation into the prosecution's handling of the case.
The Blog of Legal Times has more
Judge issues injuction for 'don't ask, don't tell'
A federal judge has issued a worldwide injunction stopping enforcement of the "don't ask, don't tell" policy, ending the military's 17-year-old ban on openly gay troops. U.S. District Judge Virginia Phillips' landmark ruling Tuesday was widely cheered by gay rights organizations that credited her with getting accomplished what President Obama and Washington politics could not. U.S. Department of Justice attorneys have 60 days to appeal. Legal experts say they are under no legal obligation to do so and they could let Phillips' ruling stand.
The Tennessean carried this AP story
Celebrate Pro Bono
Pro bono awards dinner in Johnson City Thursday
Legal Aid of East Tennessee will host its Pro Bono Awards Dinner on Oct. 14 from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Johnson City Holiday Inn. For more information, contact Carla Forney at 423-928-8311 or at cforney@laet.org.

Election 2010
On eve of early voting, city-county issue not settled
Eight Memphis citizens are challenging the Tennessee law that requires the proposed Memphis and Shelby County charter to win a majority of votes inside the city limits and also outside the city. The plaintiffs -- among them are long-time civil rights activists Maxine Smith and Russell Sugarmon -- who filed the suit claim that since the law gives equal weight to the smaller number of county voters outside Memphis, it dilutes the votes of people inside Memphis, particularly African-Americans, and violates the one-man, one-vote principle. Early voting for the Nov. 2 referendum begins Wednesday. "This will have no effect on early voting or voting at the polls," said attorney John Ryder, a defendant in the case. "It will only have an effect on the way the votes are counted once the votes are cast."
The Commercial Appeal has more
Guide helps voters with information about candidates
The Commercial Appeal provides readers with a Voter Guide that features general-election contests for Tennessee governor, the U.S. House of Representatives, the Tennessee General Assembly and other offices, including two Barlett municipal judgeships where six lawyers are running. The online voter guide "provides a snapshot of each candidate," the paper says.
Access the online voter guide
Barristers Breakfast raises funds for cancer research
The 11th Annual Barristers' Pancake Breakfast, sponsored by the Memphis legal community, is set for Oct. 15 from 7:30 to 9 a.m. at the downtown Calvary Church. Tickets are $10 each and are available at the door. Carryout service and delivery also will be available. Proceeds from the breakfast will benefit the Memphis Mid-South Affiliate of Komen for the Cure, which supports research to fight breast cancer. To purchase tickets, make a donation or for questions, contact Judy Birchler at (901) 577-2243 or at jbirchler@bakerdonelson.com. Checks should be payable to Komen for the Cure and mailed to Judy Birchler, Baker Donelson Bearman Caldwell & Berkowitz, 165 Madison Ave., 19th Floor, Memphis 38103.

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