TBA Law Blog

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Posted by: Kate Prince on May 4, 2021

The Tennessee Supreme Court today issued a special order clarifying that Rule 8, RPC 1.8(e) does not exclude the Tennessee Alliance for Legal Services (TALS) and its four partners from giving financial aid to clients. The rule maintains that lawyers cannot provide financial assistance to clients in connection with pending or completed litigation. TALS, Legal Aid of East Tennessee, Legal Aid of Middle Tennessee and the Cumberlands, Memphis Area Legal Aid Services and West Tennessee Legal Services last week wrote to the high court, asking it to consider an exception that would allow the organizations to administer aid through a grant funded by the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) funds. The grant money will be used to expand TALS’ 2Gen legal assistance program that focuses on helping families avoid homelessness by paying their rent, housing debts, resettlement costs and more. The Supreme Court granted the request today, writing that TALS and its partners will not be in violation of the rule when using donations to provide humanitarian aid to those in need. TALS anticipates having up to $13.8 million dollars available to assist up to 1,160 families.

Posted by: Kate Prince on Apr 27, 2021

The Tennessee Supreme Court has one case set for its docket tomorrow. Steven Kampmeyer et al. v. State of Tennessee will be livestreamed on the Administrative Office of the Court’s YouTube page at 9 a.m. CDT. The case involves interpretation of the Claims Commission Act, which authorizes certain suits against the state of Tennessee. The AOC’s website has more on the case.  

Posted by: Stacey Shrader Joslin on Apr 26, 2021

The Tennessee Supreme Court ruled on Monday that a general contractor has no private right of action against an insurance company for violation of a state law that requires insurers to include contractors as payees on benefit checks sent to property owners. The court said the record shows that the General Assembly intended enforcement of Tennessee Code Annotated section 56-7-111 be through a criminal penalty not a private lawsuit. The law requires an insurance company to name the general contractor as a payee on an insurance proceeds check in cases where property owners have losses of more than $1,000 to a home or other structure under a policy of property or casualty insurance.

Posted by: Stacey Shrader Joslin on Apr 16, 2021

The Tennessee Supreme Court today upheld a death sentence for Michael Dale Rimmer, convicted of murdering his ex-girlfriend Ricci Lynn Ellsworth in 1997. The court’s action upholds Rimmer’s second conviction for the crime. His first conviction in 1998 was overturned and a new trial ordered. Rimmer appealed the second conviction arguing that (1) it violated the double jeopardy clause in the Constitution, (2) DNA evidence in his car should not have been admissible because his attorneys were not able to inspect the car, and (3) evidence of a 1989 rape conviction of Ellsworth and escape attempts from prison should not have been admissible. The court rejected all claims. Justice Sharon G. Lee concurred with the majority but disagreed with how the court determined whether the death sentence was excessive or disproportionate to the penalty imposed in similar cases. Read more about the case from the Administrative Office of the Courts.

Posted by: Stacey Shrader Joslin on Apr 7, 2021

Spring Hill and Franklin Municipal Court Judge Deana Hood has been appointed to the Judicial Ethics Committee by the Tennessee Supreme Court, the Williamson Herald reports. She replaces Judge Paul Plant and will serve through Dec. 31, 2024. Hood has served as a municipal court judge in Spring Hill since 2018 and in Franklin since 2014. She also maintains a full-time law practice in Franklin. Hood studied political science at Middle Tennessee State University and received her law degree from the Cumberland School of Law at Samford University. The committee issues formal ethics opinions requested by judges.

Posted by: Stacey Shrader Joslin on Apr 2, 2021

The Tennessee Supreme Court yesterday released a statement clarifying the process that would unfold if the current reprieve issued by Gov. Bill Lee for Pervis Payne is allowed to expire. The governor issued a temporary reprieve for Payne due to the COVID-19 pandemic on Nov. 6, 2020. It is set to expire on April 9. The court notes that upon expiration of the reprieve, it has the authority to reset the execution for a future date. The statement was issued to address confusion that the execution would take place on April 9 if the reprieve is allowed to expire.

Posted by: Stacey Shrader Joslin on Apr 1, 2021

The Tennessee Supreme Court today vacated a suspension it imposed on Davidson County lawyer Charles Edward Walker on March 25. The court had suspended Walker for three years, with two years to be served on active suspension and one year on probation, and had directed him to engage a practice monitor. The court took the action believing that Walker had not appealed the Board of Professional Responsibility’s recommendation for discipline. The court says it has since learned that Walker did file an appeal but filed it in the wrong court. The order today also directs the Court of Appeals to transfer Walker’s appeal to it for consideration.

Posted by: Kate Prince on Mar 30, 2021

Two cases are scheduled to go before the Tennessee Supreme Court tomorrow. One will be livestreamed and the other will be submitted on briefs. Oral arguments for State of Tennessee v. Jeremy Reynolds can be heard live on the Administrative Office of the Courts’ YouTube page beginning at 9 a.m. CDT. In re Loring Edwin Justice will be submitted on briefs. The AOC’s website has more on each case.

Posted by: Stacey Shrader Joslin on Mar 26, 2021

The Tennessee Supreme Court ruled today that a sentence imposed in accordance with a statute that later was declared unconstitutional is voidable, but not illegal, within the meaning of Tennessee Rule of Criminal Procedure 36.1. The rule allows defendants or the state to file a motion at any time to correct an illegal sentence, which is defined as a sentence that is not authorized by law or directly conflicts with the law. By contrast, the court said voidable sentences must be challenged through the post-conviction process, which has set time limits. The court said it based its reasoning on the fact that the law in question (a criminal gang enhancement statute) was presumptively constitutional and did not directly conflict with any other law at the time the sentence was imposed, though it was later found to be unconstitutional. The unanimous opinion was authored by Justice Cornelia A. Clark.

Posted by: Stacey Shrader Joslin on Mar 8, 2021

The Tennessee Supreme Court today affirmed the assessment of costs associated with disciplinary proceedings taken against Memphis attorney Larry E. Parrish. The court also ordered him to pay the costs within 45 days. Parrish had challenged the assessment of fees, arguing that the court should have used a revised 2014 version of Rule 9, which was in place when he was reinstated, rather than the version of the rule in place in 2013 when disciplinary action against him was initiated. The court found that the version of Rule 9 that should be used in disciplinary cases is the version in effect at the time the proceedings are filed or initiated, not when the attorney is reinstated. The court also notes that failure to pay the costs on time may serve as grounds for revocation of reinstatement. Read more from the court.

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