Opinion Flash

June 15, 2004
Volume 10 — Number 115

Following this index are summaries of each case, including its name, first paragraph, author's name, and the names of attorneys for the parties of each opinion.

This Issue (IN THIS ORDER):
00 New Opinion(s) from the Tennessee Supreme Court
00 New Opinion(s) from the Tennessee Supreme Court Workers' Compensation Panel
00 New Document(s) or Proposed Rule(s) from the Tennessee Supreme Court
06 New Opinion(s) from the Tennessee Court of Appeals
02 New Opinion(s) from the Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals
00 New Opinion(s) from the Tennessee Attorney General (PDF format)
00 New Judicial Ethics Opinion(s)
00 New Formal Ethics Opinion(s) from the Board of Professional Responsibility

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Howard H. Vogel
Knoxville, Tennessee
Editor-in-Chief, TBALink


GARY BAKER v. ROANE STATE COMMUNITY COLLEGE, ET AL.

Court:TCA

Attorneys:                          

Larry D. Woods, Nashville, TN, for Appellant

Paul G. Summers, Attorney General & Reporter, Eugene B. Whitesell,
Senior Counsel, Nashville, TN, for Appellees

Judge: HIGHERS

First Paragraph:

This case involves the timeliness of a grievance filed by Appellant,
an employee of Roane State Community College.  The hearing officer
determined that such grievance was not filed within the limitations
period.  Appellant appealed this decision to the Chancery Court of
Davidson County, which affirmed the decision of the hearing officer. 
Appellant now appeals to this Court and we affirm.

http://www.tba.org/tba_files/TCA/bakergary.wpd

STEPHANIE THURMAN HARTMAN (WALLACE) v. DARYL O'BRIEN HARTMAN

Court:TCA

Attorneys:                          

Lucy C. Wright, Chattanooga, Tennessee, for appellant, Stephanie Ann
Thurman Hartman (Wallace).

Mechelle Story, Spring City, Tennessee, for appellee, Daryl O'Brien
Hartman.

Judge: INMNA

First Paragraph:

The divorce judgment approved a MDA which provided that the minor
children would reside with their father in Rhea County while mother
was working in Atlanta.  When not working, mother had custody.  Two
years after the divorce, father petitioned for custody, alleging that
at the time of the divorce it was contemplated that mother would
return to Tennessee and share equal parenting time.  Mother
counter-claimed for custody.  Father was awarded primary custody.  The
judgment is vacated and the case is remanded for a hearing on the
comparative fitness of each parent.

http://www.tba.org/tba_files/TCA/hartmanst.wpd

CAROL KNITTIG HAZEN v. JOHN THURSTON HAZEN

Court:TCA

Attorneys:                          

Charles W. McGhee, Memphis, Tennessee, for the appellant, John
Thurston Hazen.

Charles E. Hodum, Collierville, Tennessee, for the appellee, Carol
Knittig Hazen.

Judge: FARMER

First Paragraph:

Wife filed the present divorce action seeking, inter alia, alimony. 
The trial court awarded Wife alimony in futuro based upon a perceived
need rather than a demonstrative need.  For the following reasons, we
reverse

http://www.tba.org/tba_files/TCA/hazencarolk.wpd

TAMMY KAY JOINER v. JAMES ALDEN GRIFFITH

Court:TCA

Attorneys:                          

Rodger N. Bowman and Gregory D. Smith, Clarksville, Tennessee, for the
appellant, James Alden Griffith.

Steven C. Girsky and Ralph H. McCoy, Clarksville, Tennessee, for the
appellee, Tammy K. Joiner.

Judge: CLEMENT

First Paragraph:

This appeal involves a child support and visitation dispute.  Mother
and Father, never married, have two minor children.  The parties lived
together from 1997 until March 2001, when Father was arrested for
domestic assault.  Father moved out of the residence.  Mother filed a
complaint seeking to be the primary residential parent, requested
child support and arrearages and asked for temporary support and
attorney fees.  The juvenile court placed primary custody of the
children with Mother, set visitation, and ordered Father to pay $4,000
a month in child support plus $31,586 in arrearages.  Father appealed,
taking issue with visitation, child support, arrearages, and the
court's failure to make findings of fact regarding the alleged
domestic assault.  Mother appealed claiming the court erred by
rejecting most of her claim for her attorney fees.  We affirm the
trial court's determinations concerning child support and visitation,
modify the offset against the arrearage owed for child support, and
reverse and remand Mother's request for attorney fees.  Further, we
find that the trial court is not required to make written findings of
fact concerning the domestic abuse charge because the alleged domestic
assault was not against a minor.

http://www.tba.org/tba_files/TCA/joinertammy.wpd

ANNA MILLER v. EDUARDO MILLER 

Court:TCA

Attorneys:                          

Jeff Mueller, Jackson, Tennessee, for the appellant, Eduardo Miller.

Linda Sesson Taylor, Jackson, Tennessee, for the appellee, Anna
Miller.

Judge: FARMER

First Paragraph:

This appeal arises from a divorce action.  We affirm in part, reverse
in part, and remand.

http://www.tba.org/tba_files/TCA/milleranna.wpd

JENNIFER DAWN WHITLEY v. RICHARD KEITH WHITLEY

Court:TCA

Attorneys:                          

Bobby W. Sands, Columbia, Tennessee, for the appellant, Richard Keith
Whitley.

Timothy P. Underwood and Joe W. Henry, Jr., Pulaski, Tennessee, for
the appellee, Jennifer Dawn Whitley.

Judge: GLENN

First Paragraph:

This is a divorce case involving the classification and division of
property in a marriage of relatively short duration.  Prior to
marriage, the parties lived for a few months with the husband's
parents before moving to a farm purchased by the husband with a down
payment provided by his parents.  The wife gave birth to the parties'
child a few months after the move, and the parties subsequently
married.  Twenty-two months later, the wife filed for divorce.  Both
before and during the marriage,  the wife assisted the husband with
his cattle farming operation as well as with improvements to the
property.  The trial court found the farm to be marital property under
the doctrine of transmutation, assigned it a value of $100,000, and
awarded it to the husband.  The trial court awarded most of the farm
equipment and forty-eight head of cattle to the husband as his
separate property and divided the marital property between the
parties, with the husband awarded the remainder of the farm machinery
and all but eleven head of cattle, and the wife awarded a 1987
Chevrolet Cavalier, the remaining cattle, and a cash judgment of
$27,000 for her "substantial contributions to the farm and farming
operation."  The husband was assigned sole responsibility for the
marital debt.  The husband appeals, arguing that the trial court
improperly classified, valued, and distributed the property.  We
conclude that the trial court correctly found that the farm was
marital property, but erred in its valuation of the farm and in its
distribution of the marital property.  Accordingly, we modify the
trial court's cash judgment to the wife to $11,886.50, which
represents one-half of the equity in the farm at the time of the
divorce and one-half of the unaccounted-for proceeds from the
husband's sale of cattle in violation of an automatic injunction in
the case.

http://www.tba.org/tba_files/TCA/whitleyjenniferd.wpd

STATE OF TENNESSEE v. MICHAEL B. LASTER

Court:TCCA

Attorneys:                          

Richard A. Tate, Blountville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Michael B.
Laster.

Paul G. Summers, Attorney General and Reporter; Brent C. Cherry,
Assistant Attorney General; H. Greeley Wells, Jr., District Attorney
General; and J. Lewis Combs, Assistant District Attorney General, for
the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: OGLE

First Paragraph:

The appellant, Michael B. Laster, entered pleas of no contest in the
Sullivan County Criminal Court to theft of property over $1,000,
operating a motor vehicle in violation of the Motor Vehicle Habitual
Offenders Act, resisting arrest, and felony failure to appear. 
Pursuant to a plea agreement, the appellant received an effective four
year sentence with the manner of service to be determined by the trial
court.  Following a hearing, the trial court denied the appellant's
request for alternative sentencing in the form of community
corrections, and the appellant timely appealed.  Upon review of the
record and the parties' briefs, we affirm the judgments of the trial
court.

http://www.tba.org/tba_files/TCCA/lastermb.wpd

STATE OF TENNESSEE v. GEORGE E. RATLIFF

Court:TCCA

Attorneys:                          

Steve McEwen, Mountain City, Tennessee (on appeal); David F. Bautista,
District Public Defender; and Jeffery C. Kelly and Deborah Huskins,
Assistant District Public Defenders (at trial), for the appellant,
George E. Ratliff.

Paul G. Summers, Attorney General and Reporter; Elizabeth B. Marney,
Assistant Attorney General; Joe C. Crumley, Jr., District Attorney
General; and Frank A. Harvey, Assistant District Attorney General Pro
Tem, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: GLENN

First Paragraph:

In 1998, the defendant, George E. Ratliff, was convicted of rape of a
child, a Class A felony, for raping his six-year-old daughter and was
sentenced to twenty-four years in the Department of Correction.  He
subsequently filed a direct appeal and a petition for writ of error
coram nobis based on the victim's recantation of her testimony.  The
trial court summarily dismissed the petition as untimely, and the
defendant appealed.  The direct appeal and the error coram nobis
appeal were consolidated, and this court reversed the trial court's
dismissal of the petition, remanded the matter for a hearing, and
stayed the direct appeal pending the trial court's ruling on the error
coram nobis petition.  See State v. Ratliff, 71 S.W.3d 291, 293 (Tenn.
Crim. App. 2001), perm. to appeal denied (Tenn. 2002).  On remand, the
trial court denied the petition, and the defendant appeals.  In his
direct appeal, the defendant argues that the trial court erred in
denying his motion for a new trial based upon newly discovered
evidence, in denying his request for individual voir dire of two
prospective jurors, and in ruling that the amount of time that lapsed
between the victim's complaint and his arrest was irrelevant. 
Additionally, he argues that his sentence is excessive.  Following our
review, we affirm the defendant's conviction and sentence and affirm
the trial court's denial of the petition for writ of error coram
nobis.

http://www.tba.org/tba_files/TCCA/ratliffgeorge.wpd

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