TBA Today - Tuesday, May 4, 2021 - Your fastest source of appellate court decisions, Supreme Court rules and orders changes, attorney general opinions and other Tennessee legal community news.
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TBA Today
Tuesday, May 4, 2021
Today's News

House, Senate Differ on New Court System, More Amendments Expected

The Senate Finance Committee today took up SB868, legislation creating a statewide chancery court, and passed the bill without incorporating the House Finance Committee amendment that would instead create the Court of Special Appeals. With the House and Senate versions of SB868/HB1130 conflicting, the two chambers will have to try to work out their differences in a conference committee. TBA lobbyists have been deeply engaged throughout this process, talking to legislators about the different proposed changes to the court system and expressing our grave concerns about the ramifications of these changes. We anticipate that another House amendment to HB1130 will be offered tonight on the House floor. Additionally, SB843/HB513, making it a felony for protesters to obstruct a highway and granting immunity to drivers who unintentionally injure or kill someone blocking a road, was tabled for the year during a special meeting of the Senate Judiciary Committee today.

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TBA to Sell Nashville Office, Determine Long-Term Needs of Association

After detailed analysis of the current real estate market and the short and long-term needs of the Tennessee Bar Association, the TBA Board of Governors and trustees of the Tennessee Legal Community Foundation (TLCF) have decided to market the Tennessee Bar Center in downtown Nashville and look for short term office space while determining long term needs. The TLCF, which owns the Bar Center, created a committee in 2019 to study the space, occupied since 2000 by the TBA and other tenants. Former TBA President Lucian Pera chaired the committee, which worked with Colliers and TBA staff to determine if the TLCF should invest in renovating the office space at 221 4th Avenue North or put the building on the market. Any questions about the building should be directed to TBA Executive Director Joycelyn Stevenson or Mike Driscoll at Colliers.

Workers’ Comp Bureau Accepting Nominations for Sue Ann Head Excellence Award

The Bureau of Workers’ Compensation is now accepting nominations for the Sue Ann Head Award for Excellence in Workers’ Compensation. Nominees must have a minimum of five years of involvement with the state’s workers’ compensation system in one of the following categories: employer or employer’s representative, employee representative, service provider, claims professional, medical provider or legal profession. The award will be given to the nominee who has made a positive impact on the workers’ compensation system through a single act or sustained record of positive contributions. Nominations are due by June 15. Read more about the award and how to make a nomination on the Bureau’s website.

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Memphis Bar Foundation Names New Fellows, Award Winners

The Memphis Bar Foundation, the philanthropic arm of the Memphis Bar Association, annually nominates attorneys and judges to become fellows based on their service to the legal profession. See the 23 new fellows of the 2021 class. The foundation also presented its Irvin Bogatin Scholarship and Irvin Bogatin Social Justice Award to two students at the University of Memphis Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law. First-year student Lexi Hivner received the scholarship, while third-year student Sierra Knight received the award. Bogatin was a charter fellow and first president of the Memphis Bar Foundation. He also helped to found Memphis Area Legal Services and served as president of the Memphis Bar Association.

Pro-Gun Group Sues State for Age Restrictions in New Permitless Carry Law

Firearms Policy Coalition (FPC), a California-based gun-rights organization, has filed a federal lawsuit challenging the age restrictions in Tennessee’s permitless carry law, the Times Free Press reports. The new gun law goes into effect on July 1 and will allow most adults aged 21 and older to carry handguns in public without state-issued permits. The civil rights complaint was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Tennessee on behalf of three Knox County men who are between the ages of 18 and 20 and excluded from permitless carry under the new statute. The lawsuit claims there are federal constitutional problems with regard to the age requirements in the new law. According to the FPC’s website, the group has filed similar suits in California and Pennsylvania.  


State House Follows Senate in Approving Police Use-of-Force Reforms

The state House of Representatives last night passed legislation that changes police use-of-force policies, the Nashville Post reports. The bill, SB1380/HB1406, bans chokeholds unless an officer believes deadly force is authorized, requires officers to intervene if witnessing excessive force by other officers, requires de-escalation policies be developed and prohibits the issuance of no-knock warrants. The Senate unanimously approved the bill last week.

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Supreme Court: TALS, Legal Aid Can Use TANF Money to Help Clients

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.


Bar Passage Data Incorrect in Yesterday’s Story

The story in yesterday’s issue of TBA Today about bar exam passage rates had incorrect data and ranking of schools for first-time test takers. The correct ranking should be as follows: Vanderbilt University Law School graduates recorded the highest passage rate – 100% percent for first timers – followed by University of Memphis School of Law at 94.1%, Belmont University College of Law at 75%, University of Tennessee College of Law at 66.7%, Lincoln Memorial University Duncan School of Law at 50% and the Nashville School of Law at 10%. Access all exam data from the Board of Law Examiners here.

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Well-Being Week: Cultivating Meaning in Work and Life

Well-Being Week continues today with a focus on aligning work and personal life with values, goals and interests. Keeping with today’s theme, “Align: Spiritual Well-Being,” the Institute for Well-Being in Law suggests reading the WeWork.com article, “Ways to Incorporate Your Spirituality at Work,” and watching a video featuring law professionals on how they integrate their personal approach to spirituality into their work lives. Today’s activity is an “Awe Walk,” a 15-minute uninterrupted walk without a phone. While walking, look for new and inspiring details on your path, explore and be open to inspiration and take time to reflect on emotions after the stroll has ended. Read more on Well-Being Week.

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Reminder: Understanding and Confronting Unconscious Bias 2.0 Program Next Week

Understanding and Confronting Unconscious Bias 2.0 is designed to help lawyers avoid bias in the decision-making process and better respond to allegations of bias from clients or third parties. The one-hour program will utilize exercises that help reveal biases, help participants better understand microaggressions and provide tools for improving cross-cultural communication at the organizational and personal levels. Nashville lawyer Luther Wright with Ogletree Deakins will present the program on May 11 from 1 to 2 p.m. CDT. Missed the first installment of this program? Catch up here.

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Secure Online Payments with LawPay

LawPay has been supporting the legal community for over a decade and is trusted by more than 135,000 professionals. Attorneys can securely accept client credit, debit and eCheck payments online and in person. In addition, LawPay was built with input from bar association partners and their ethics committees to ensure all payments are processed in compliance with attorney trust accounting rules.

Court Opinions

You can obtain full-text versions of these opinions by selecting the link below each opinion’s summary paragraph. Your email software should give you the option of reading the opinion online or downloading it to your computer or mobile device. Decisions from the 6th Circuit Court that are not designated for publication are not included in this report.


Court: TN Workers Comp Appeals Board


Tina Davis Lemons, Greeneville, Tennessee, employee-appellant, pro se

David J. Deming, Nashville, Tennessee, for the employer-appellee, Elwood Staffing Services, Inc.

Judge(s): HENSLEY

Following the employee’s reporting of a work-related hand injury, she selected a treating physician from an employer-provided panel. The authorized provider’s report of the employee’s initial visit stated that the injury was “not considered to be a work-related injury.” The employee then sought unauthorized treatment and was diagnosed with trigger finger for which she underwent surgery. Afterwards, the operating surgeon indicated the employee’s condition was “likely related to her [workplace] injury.” Following an expedited hearing, the trial court denied benefits, concluding the employee was not likely to prevail at trial in establishing causation. The employee obtained further documentation from the operating surgeon and requested a second expedited hearing, after which the trial court again denied benefits, concluding the statements from the operating surgeon were insufficient to overcome the presumption of correctness afforded the authorized provider’s causation opinion. The employer subsequently filed a motion for summary judgment supported by the medical documents the parties had relied on in the expedited hearings. The trial court granted the employer’s motion, concluding the employer had negated an essential element of the employee’s claim. The employee has appealed. We reverse the trial court’s order granting summary judgment and remand the case.




Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals


J. Liddell Kirk, Knoxville, Tennessee (on appeal), and Mack Garner, District Public Defender (at hearing), for the appellant, Corey Anderson.

Herbert H. Slatery III, Attorney General and Reporter; Renee W. Turner, Assistant Attorney General; Mike Flynn, District Attorney General; and Tracy Jenkins, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge(s): WITT

The defendant, Corey Anderson, appeals the Blount County Circuit Court’s order revoking his probation and ordering him to serve the balance of the two-year sentence imposed for his conviction of theft of property valued at $1,000 or more in confinement. Discerning no error, we affirm.



Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals


Nicholas A. Schaefer (on appeal) and David Barnette (at hearing), Kingsport, Tennessee, for the appellant, Garrick Dionte Graham.

Herbert H. Slatery III, Attorney General and Reporter; Brent C. Cherry, Senior Assistant Attorney General; Barry P. Staubus, District Attorney General; and Lewis Combs, Jr., Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge(s): HOLLOWAY

Garrick Graham, Petitioner, appeals the post-conviction court’s denial of post-conviction relief. After a thorough review of the record and applicable law, we affirm.



Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals


David Von Wiegandt (on appeal) and Leah Wilson (at trial), Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Charvaris Donte Newsom.

Herbert H. Slatery III, Attorney General and Reporter; T. Austin Watkins, Assistant Attorney General; Glenn R. Funk, District Attorney General; and Chandler Harris and J. Wesley King, Assistant District Attorneys General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge(s): WILLIAMS

Following a jury trial, the Defendant, Charvaris Donte Newsom, was convicted of felony murder, second degree murder, and especially aggravated robbery. The trial court merged the second degree murder conviction into the felony murder conviction and imposed an effective sentence of life imprisonment. On appeal, the Defendant challenges (1) the sufficiency of the evidence; (2) the admission of evidence of his other criminal acts; (3) the admission of hearsay evidence from a police report; (4) the prosecutor’s questioning of a detective and the Defendant regarding whether they believed witnesses were truthful; (5) the prosecutor’s questioning the Defendant regarding his invocation of his right to remain silent and his failure to produce evidence and witnesses at trial; and (6) the prosecutor’s comments during opening statements and closing arguments. The Defendant also seeks relief based upon cumulative error. Upon reviewing the record, the parties’ briefs and oral arguments, and the applicable law, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.



Questions, comments: Email us at TBAToday@tnbar.org

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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