Supreme Court

Supremes confirm death penalty in 2008 Memphis murder

News release from the Administrative Office of the Courts

Nashville, Tenn. – The Tennessee Supreme Court has affirmed James Hawkins’s premeditated murder conviction and sentence of death for the 2008 murder of Charlene Gaither, Mr. Hawkins’s long-term girlfriend and the mother of his three children. 

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More funding recommended for poor in TN court system

After 18 months of study, a task force set up by the state Supreme Court has provided its recommendations on changes needed to provide appropriate legal representation to the poor – including higher pay for the lawyers who serve them.

From the News Sentinel’s report:

“What we are talking about are programs designed to protect the liberties of people from inappropriate interference by the government,” said former Tennessee Supreme Court Justice William C. Koch Jr., who served as chairman of the Indigent Representation Task Force.

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TN Supreme majority: Police can ignore ‘no trespassing’ signs

News release from Administrative Office of the Courts

Nashville, Tenn. – A majority of the Supreme Court has ruled that, despite the existence of “no trespassing” signs near an unobstructed driveway, police officers’ warrantless entry onto the defendant’s property was constitutionally permissible.

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Slatery urges senators back Gorsuch for U.S. Supreme Court

Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery has written the chairman of the Senate Judiciary and Tennessee’s two U.S. senators to voice support for President Trump’s nomination of Neil Gorsuch to the United States Supreme Court.

“In short, Judge Gorsuch is a champion of the structural safeguards that protect state sovereignty and individual liberty, a committed textualist and originalist, and a brilliant jurist. I urge the Senate to confirm him without delay,” says Slatery in the letter to Sens. Chuck Grassley (the Judiciary Committee chairman), Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker.

Corker has publicly declared he will vote for Gorsuch’s confirmation. Alexander has praised the nominee lavishly and denounced the notion of Democrats threatening to filibuster the nomination without explicitly saying the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals judge has his vote.

Text of Slatery’s letter is below.

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TN Supreme Court upholds death penalty protocol

News release from the Administrative Office of the Courts

Nashville, Tenn. – The Supreme Court has upheld the constitutionality of the written protocol by which the Tennessee Department of Correction carries out an execution by lethal injection.

The plaintiffs in this matter, each of whom have been convicted of first degree murder and sentenced to death, brought a declaratory judgment action in the trial court challenging the constitutionality of the lethal injection protocol under both the United States and Tennessee Constitutions.  This protocol was adopted on September 27, 2013, and provided that inmates who had been sentenced to death were to be executed by injection of a lethal dose of the drug, pentobarbital.  The trial court conducted a lengthy evidentiary hearing and eventually denied the plaintiffs relief.

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Supremes back firing of tenured TN teacher without back pay

News release from the Administrative Office of the Courts

Nashville, Tenn. – In a case involving the dismissal of a tenured teacher, the Tennessee Supreme Court has held that the Court of Appeals’ award to the teacher of partial back pay was not authorized under the Tennessee Teacher Tenure Act (Tenure Act). It also held that the teacher could not appeal the timeliness of her school board hearing because she did not raise that objection to the school board.

Rogelynn Emory taught French and English in several different high schools in Memphis, Tennessee. For several years, school administrators noted that Ms. Emory exhibited unusual behavior, had difficulty managing her students, and displayed a low level of teaching skill. In late 2005, the city school system notified Ms. Emory that she was being charged with “inefficiency,” that is, teaching below the acceptable standard, and would be discharged. Under the Tenure Act, Ms. Emory demanded a hearing before the city school board.

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Supremes OK forms to simplify uncontested divorces for couples with children

News release from Administrative Office of the Courts

Nashville, Tenn. – The Tennessee Supreme Court has adopted a set of plain-language forms and instructions for use in uncontested divorces between parties with minor children in an effort to simplify divorce proceedings for parties that fall into that category.  The forms will become effective January 1, 2017.

The forms are approved by the Court as universally acceptable and legally sufficient for use in all Tennessee courts pursuant to Tennessee Supreme Court Rule 52. The forms and instructions were submitted to the Court by the Access to Justice Commission.

The forms arose from the Commission’s responsibility under Supreme Court Rule 50 to develop initiatives and systemic changes to reduce barriers to access to justice and to meet the legal needs of persons whose legal needs may not be met by legal aid programs. Currently there are restrictions on the types of family law cases which may be handled by federally funded legal aid providers.

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New TN court communicator designated

News release from Administrative Office of the Courts

Nashville, Tenn. ­– The Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC) announced today that Jill G. Frost, Nashville attorney and former American Red Cross spokesperson, will serve as Director of Communications for the statewide court system beginning December 1, 2016.  One of Frost’s primary responsibilities will be serving as a media spokesperson for the Tennessee Supreme Court and the AOC.

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Supremes adopt new divorce forms

News release from Administrative Office of the Courts

Nashville, Tenn. ­– The Tennessee Supreme Court has adopted a set of plain-language forms and instructions for use in uncontested divorces between parties with minor children in an effort to simplify divorce proceedings for parties that fall into that category.

The forms are approved by the Court as universally acceptable as legally sufficient for use in all Tennessee courts pursuant to Tennessee Supreme Court Rule 52. The forms and instructions were submitted to the Court by the Access to Justice Commission.

The forms arose from the Commission’s responsibility under Supreme Court Rule 50 to develop initiatives and systemic changes to reduce barriers to access to justice and to meet the legal needs of persons whose legal needs may not be met by legal aid programs. Currently there are restrictions on the types of family law cases which may be handled by federally funded legal aid providers.

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