Federal attorneys weigh in on Tennessee mosque case

Jerry E. Martin, U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Tennessee, said his office in Nashville and the federal Department of Justice have been watching a lawsuit unfold against a proposed mosque near Murfreesboro. At the heart of the suit is the question of whether Islam is a legitimate religion in the United States. Saying the department could no longer sit idly by, Martin announced it filed a pronouncement yesterday in Rutherford County court that the federal government recognizes Islam as a religion and that plans for the mosque should move forward.

Read more in The Tennessean

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Court: TWCA


Thomas J. Dement III, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Tacle Seating USA, LLC.

David W. Lawrence, Lebanon, Tennessee, for the appellee, Ricky Lee Vaughn.


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 trial court awarded 100% permanent partial disability ("PPD") to the left arm and 18% PPD to the right arm. The employer contends the trial court erred in awarding compensation to both arms, rather than the left thumb only. We affirm the judgment of the trial court.



Court: TCA


Cynthia J. King, Newport, Tennessee, for the appellant, Edward C. S., III.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General & Reporter; Michael E. Moore, Solicitor General; and Elizabeth C. Driver, Senior Counsel, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellee, State of Tennessee, Department of Children's Services.

J. Derreck Whitson, Newport, Tennessee, Guardian ad Litem.


This is a termination of parental rights case. The Department of Children's Services concedes that it did not prove the grounds for termination of parental rights by clear and convincing evidence. We likewise find that procedural errors were committed by the trial court. Accordingly, the trial court's decision is vacated.



Court: TCCA


Jason R. Grubb, Beaver, West Virginia, for the appellant, Joseph W. Denton.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Benjamin A. Ball, Assistant Attorney General; William E. Gibson, District Attorney General; and Anthony Craighead, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.


The Defendant, Joseph W. Denton, pleaded guilty to one count of forgery and one count of impersonation of a licensed professional, both Class E felonies. Under the terms of the plea agreement, he received concurrent terms of two years as a Range I, standard offender to be served on probation. After a sentencing hearing, the trial court denied the Defendant's request for judicial diversion. He challenges that ruling on appeal. After a review of the record, we affirm the judgments of the Putnam County Circuit Court.



Court: TCCA


Clifton Corker, Johnson City, Tennessee, for the appellant, Timothy Ray Gentry.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Sophia S. Lee, Assistant Attorney General; and H. Greeley Welles, Jr., District Attorney General; for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: OGLE

The Petitioner, Timothy Ray Gentry, pled guilty to multiple theft, forgery, and drug offenses and received a total effective sentence of eighteen years, eleven months, and twenty-nine days. The Petitioner filed a petition for post-conviction relief, alleging that his counsel was ineffective and that his guilty pleas were not knowingly and voluntarily made. The Petitioner acknowledged that his petition was untimely but asserted that due process required the statute of limitations be tolled. The post-conviction court dismissed the petition without a hearing, and the Petitioner now appeals. We reverse the ruling of the post-conviction court and remand for a hearing to determine whether due process requires tolling of the statute of limitations.



Court: TCCA


Luis D. Vidales Romero, Whiteville, Tennessee, Pro Se.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; and David H. Findley, Senior Counsel, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: GLENN

The pro se petitioner, Luis D. Vidales Romero, appeals the summary dismissal of his petition for writ of habeas corpus. Following our review, we affirm the habeas court's dismissal of the petition.



Court: TCCA


James L. Baum, Burns, Tennessee, for the appellant, Victoria Nicole Spicer.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Lacy Wilber, Assistant Attorney General; Dan Alsobrooks, District Attorney General, and Billy Miller, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: SMITH

The Dickson County Grand Jury indicted Appellant, Victoria Spicer, for one count of theft of property worth more than $500 but less than $1,000 and one count of criminal trespass. At the conclusion of the State's proof, the State conceded that the evidence was insufficient to support a conviction for criminal trespass. At the end of trial, the jury convicted Appellant for one count of facilitation of theft, for property worth $500 or less. The trial court sentenced Appellant to six months in the county jail. On appeal, Appellant argues that her conviction cannot stand because theft of property worth $500 or less is a misdemeanor and the crime of facilitation under the statute applies only to felonies. The State concedes that facilitation of a misdemeanor is not a crime under the Tennessee statutory scheme. After a review of the record and the statute, we conclude that facilitation of a misdemeanor is not a crime under the statutes of Tennessee. Therefore, Appellant's conviction must be reversed and dismissed.



Court: TCCA


Gregory D. Gookin, Jackson, Tennessee, for the appellant, Brandon Williamson.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Brian Clay Johnson, Assistant Attorney General; James G. Woodall, District Attorney General; and Shaun Brown, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: MCLIN

The defendant, Brandon Williamson, appeals the revocation of his community corrections sentence, claiming that the trial court erred by ordering him to serve his original sentence in the Tennessee Department of Correction. Following our review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.



Legal News
Celebrate Pro Bono
U.S. Supreme Court
TBA Member Services

Legal News
Federal agencies probing foreclosure problems
The White House acknowledged today that several federal agencies, including the Federal Housing Administration and an interagency task force on financial fraud, are investigating allegations of widespread errors in foreclosure documents. A spokesman for President Obama also said the administration supports an effort by the state attorneys general to investigate the matter.
The Associated Press reported the news this afternoon
Local AG seeking justice for slain sister-in-law
Fourth Judicial District Attorney General Jimmy Dunn regularly seeks justice for victims of crimes, but now he hopes to bring closure to his own family after his sister-in-law was found dead in Phoenix last week. The victim, Shawna Swaw, is the younger sister of Dunn's wife Karene. Swaw lived in Fresno, Calif. The family is not sure how she ended up so far from home. Dunn said he has used the experience to remind his staff how important it is to "listen to the family, answer their questions [and] listen to their concerns."
The Knoxville News-Sentinel reports
Judge rejects appeal of recall opinion
Circuit Court Judge Jeff Hollingsworth today denied a request for a new ruling on recall procedures from a group seeking to recall Chattanooga Mayor Ron Littlefield. New lawyers for the group argued that Hollingsworth overstepped his bounds when he blocked their recall effort, saying it should be the state Election Commission, not the courts, that decide election matters. Hollingsworth disagreed saying he could not allow a vote to go forward when the election "did not have the...authority of law."
Read more on Chattanoogan.com
ABA probes lawyer-rating services
The American Bar Association's Commission on Ethics 20/20 is exploring -- among other topics -- how lawyer and law firm rating providers such as Avvo, Am Law and Best Lawyers operate. A working group of the commission, which is in "information gathering mode" with regard to the issue, is examining the effects, if any, such rankings have on the profession. Yesterday's issue of the ABA Journal summarized testimony recently given to the group.
Read it here
Ethics commissioner to teach at Nashville School of Law
The Nashville School of Law has recruited Tennessee Ethics Commission member Dianne Neal as an assistant instructor. She will teach the Tennessee Bar Exam Skills and Review course. After starting her career at a private law firm, Neal spent six years as state Assistant Attorney General, was chief legal counsel to Gov. Ned McWherter, and then general counsel to the Tennessee Regulatory Authority. She joined the ethics commission in 2006.
The Nashville Post has the story (subscription required)
UT law announces visiting business law professor
The University of Tennessee College of Law has announced that Professor Christyne (CJ) Vachon will be a visiting professor for the spring semester at the Clayton Center for Entrepreneurial Law. Vachon, most recently from Ipswich, Mass., teaches international business and law at Northeastern University. She previously served as chief legal officer at Link Equity Partners LLC, as law clerk to U.S. District Court Judge Morris B. Hoffman of Colorado and as a Fulbright Professor at the University of Mongolia in Ulaanbataar.

IP exec named to TJC board
The Tennessee Justice Center has added Carl Carter, associate general counsel of International Paper, to its board of directors. Carter joined International Paper in 1993 and is now associate general counsel overseeing the litigation, global supply chain and information technology functions of the company. Before joining the company, he was a judicial law clerk to the late Judge Odell Horton and later worked in the U.S. Department of Justice. Carter is also a member of the Tennessee Bar Association's Board of Governors.
The Nashville Post reported the news (subscription required)
Celebrate Pro Bono
Events in Nashville on tap for Wednesday
Two events in Nashville tomorrow continue the legal community's effort to bring pro bono services to needy Tennesseans. Beginning at 9 a.m., lawyers with Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell & Berkowitz and the Nashville Pro Bono Program will conduct a legal clinic for homeless individuals. The event takes place at the Campus for Human Development and appointments are required. At Fifty Forward in Donelson, the groups -- assisted by Caterpillar Financial Services -- will provide advice and prepare simple wills for senior citizens.
Get more information on these and other events around the state
Hayman, Nashville lawyers recognized at pro bono event
Sarah Hayman, TBA's Access to Justice Coordinator, was among those recognized for their volunteer efforts at the Nashville Pro Bono Program's Celebrate Pro Bono breakfast this morning. Others recognized included lawyers Steve Cobb, Doug Pierce, Anita Porter and Jean Rodby, as well as the law firms of Ortale, Kelley, Herbert & Crawford, and Adams and Reese. Among those in attendance were Chief Justice Connie Clark, Access to Justice Commission staff member Anne-Louise Wirthlin and Magistrate Judge Joe Brown. Hayman was applauded for her work in implementing the volunteer recruitment effort for flood victims, which has resulted in more than 200 lawyers providing legal services to more than 500 clients statewide.

U.S. Supreme Court
Inmate voting claims rejected
The U.S. Supreme Court has refused to hear an appeal by inmates who claimed a ban on their voting violates the Voting Rights Act. The decision lets stand a ruling by the First Circuit Court of Appeals, which upheld the voting ban in Massachusetts. The inmates had argued the voting ban disproportionally affected blacks and Hispanics in violation of federal law.
The Washington Post has this AP report
ABA conference coming to Memphis
The American Bar Association's Section of Individual Rights & Responsibilities will hold its annual conference in Memphis on Oct. 21-23. The event, which will be held at The Peabody Hotel, features the theme "More to Overcome: Civil Rights in the 21st Century, An Action Agenda for Lawyers & the Legal Profession." Speakers include U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen, Tennessee Supreme Court Justice Janice Holder, Memphis City Judge Earnestine Hunt Dorse, Memphis Mayor A C Wharton Jr. and former circuit court judge D'Army Bailey.
Learn more about the conference
Kingsport lawyer dies
Kingsport lawyer Michael "Mike" May passed away Sept. 15 after an extended illness. Originally from New Orleans and raised in Fulton, Miss., Mr. May relocated to Kingsport in 1975 after earning his law degree from the University of Memphis Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law. He practiced law there for 35 years. Mr. May was a Rule 31 Mediator and past president of the Kingsport Bar Association. Memorial contributions may be made to the First Broad Street United Methodist Church, P.O. Box 1346, Kingsport 37662 or the Amedysis Hospice of Kingsport, 200 Professional Park Private Drive, Kingsport 37663.
Read his obituary online
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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