Tennessee Benchbooks

I find Tennessee benchbooks to be quite useful in practice.  The ones that I use are below, along with a few similar guides.  Please let me know if I’m missing any useful benchbooks or other guides.

Benchbook – Alimony (2011)

Benchbook – Alternative Sentencing (2014)

Benchbook – Child Dependency (2008)

Benchbook – Children in Court (2008)

Benchbook – Criminal Issues in General Sessions (2014)

Benchbook – Domestic Abuse (2015-2016)

Benchbook – Judicial Practice (2014)

Benchbook – Municipal Law (2014)


Useful Guides:

Appellate Advocacy (2017)

Appellate Judge Introduction (2014)

Appellate Pro Se Filing Guide (2010)

Child Dependency and Parental Rights Cases (2007)

Sheriff’s Handbook (2006)


Useful Links:

Best Tennessee Legal Blogs


Upper Cumberland Law Firm Websites

Upper Cumberland Law Firm Websites

[blog in progress]

It’s important that you have easy access to information on the various lawyers and law firms throughout the Upper Cumberland and Sequatchie Valley.  If you’re an attorney and your website isn’t on the list, please email me your name and website.

Cumberland County (Crossville)

Fields and Tollett

Kevin Bryant

Looney, Looney, & Chadwell, PLLC

Margaret Powers

Patton & Hyder

William Ridley

DeKalb County (Smithville)

Buck & Buck

Jeremy Trapp

Mingy Bryant

Fentress County (Jamestown)

Mathis, Bates, & Klinghard

Steven Girsky

Walker & Walker

Grundy County (Altamont)

Russell Mainord

Putnam County (Cookeville)

Beth Shipley

Byars Law Office

Callahan & Binkley, PLC

Chaffin, Chaffin, & Giaimo

Dale Bohannon

David Day

Dennis Oliver

Donna Simpson

Doug Dennis

Edward Graves, III

Frank Kessler

Fry, Fry, Knight, & Murphy

Greg Groth

Gothard Waters

Gwen Jones

Harry Lasser

Henry Fincher

Ian Deaderick

Jon Hatfield

Kelsy Miller

Kevin Christopher

Laurie Seber

Leftkovitz & Leftkovitz

Madewell, Jared, Halfacre, Williams, & Wilson

Martelia Crawford

Michael Knowlton

Scott Lytal

Seth Crabtree

Shipman & Crim

Steven Randolph

Shawn Wilson

Stacye Choate

Tessa Lawson

Tribble & Tribble

Wesley Bray

William Roberson

Wimberly Lawson

Van Buren County (Spencer)

Matt Bailey

Warren County (McMinnville)

Bud Sharp

Farrar, Holliman, & Medley

Galligan & Newman

White County (Sparta)

Cindy Morgan

Griffin & Davis, PLLC

Hutson & Hutson, PLLC


Other useful links:

Best Tennessee Legal Blogs

Tennessee Benchbooks




12-year-old attempts suicide by jumping off of a bridge and kills a woman

Well this is heartbreaking.  In Fairfax County, Virginia, a twelve-year-old boy attempted suicide by jumping off a bridge over the interstate and landed on a car driven by a twenty-two-year-old.  One law forum has already begun to discuss the case in the context of juvenile and criminal law.  If this tragic event had happened in Tennessee, what is the chance that the child would be charged as an adult and found guilty of murder?

It is extremely low.  First, the case would likely never get to criminal court.  For a juvenile charged with crime(s), there has to be a special proceeding before the child is transferred to adult court.  See T.C.A. § 37-1-134.  At the transfer proceeding, the juvenile court has to find probable cause that the interests of the community require that the child be put under legal restraint or discipline.  In making this determination, the court shall consider, among other matters:

  1. The extent and nature of the child’s prior delinquency records;
  2. The nature of past treatment efforts and the nature of the child’s response thereto;
  3. Whether the offense was against person or property, with greater weight in favor of transfer given to offenses against the person;
  4. Whether the offense was committed in an aggressive or premeditated manner;
  5. The possible rehabilitation of the child by use of procedures, services, and facilities currently available to the court in this state; and
  6. Whether the child’s conduct would be a criminal gang offense if committed by an adult.

At first glance, it may seem that these factors weigh towards adult court.  However, consider the circumstances.  Was the child being aggressive?  Towards himself but not others.  Was his act premeditated?  The child premeditated an offense, i.e., suicide, but not the offense committed, i.e., murder.  Finally, the child’s age and the fact that the child was attempting to commit suicide indicate that rehabilitation is likely.

For argument’s sake, however, let’s assume the child was in adult court.  What are his chances of being convicted of murder?  First degree murder requires:

  1. A premeditated and intentional killing of another;
  2. A killing of another committed in the perpetration of or attempt to perpetrate any first degree murder, act of terrorism, arson, rape, robbery, burglary, theft, kidnapping, aggravated child abuse, aggravated child neglect, rape of a child, aggravated rape of a child or aircraft piracy; or
  3. A killing of another committed as the result of the unlawful throwing, placing or discharging of a destructive device or bomb.

T.C.A. § 39-13-202.  Neither (2) nor (3) apply.  (1) doesn’t apply either because the child didn’t intend to kill another.  Of course, that assumes that the child didn’t intend to take someone with him.  Perhaps, he planned to suicide and kill another person.  Still, is a jury really going to believe that a twelve-year-old child distraught enough to jump off of a bridge was also thinking about timing his jump to kill an innocent person?  Probably not.

So, what about second degree murder?  Would the child be convicted of that?  Second degree murder requires:

  1. A knowing killing of another; or 
  2. A killing of another that results from the unlawful distribution of any Schedule I or Schedule II drug, when the drug is the proximate cause of the death of the user.

T.C.A. § 39-13-210.  (2) doesn’t apply.  It also seems that (1) doesn’t apply either.  Tennessee Code Annotated section 39-11-106 defines knowing to mean that the person is aware that the conduct is reasonably certain to cause the result.  Was the child aware that jumping off of a bridge over an interstate is reasonably certain to cause the death of another?  Maybe?  I guess if the interstate is crowded one could infer that it is reasonably certain that jumping off of the bridge will kill someone else.  But, even on a crowded interstate, one could hit the front of a car, the back of a car, empty seats, etc.  And once again, the child is twelve and suicidal.  I still think that it’s unlikely that a jury would convict the child.

Further, the child would have a strong insanity defense.  See T.C.A. § 39-11-501.  An insanity defense requires that the defendant, at the time of the commission of the acts constituting the offense, was unable to appreciate the nature or wrongfulness of his acts because of a severe mental disease or defect.  Now normally, it takes a pretty severe case for the insanity defense to be successful.  For example, one successful case had a defendant who believed that President Kennedy was alive and behind 9/11.  See State v. Kennedy, 152 S.W.3d 16 (Tenn. Crim. App. 2004), appeal denied (Tenn. 2004).  While the child may not be that delusional, there is still a good chance that he did not appreciate the wrongfulness of his acts because of his age and suicidal state.

Based on the foregoing, it’s highly unlikely that the child would be tried as an adult and found guilty of murder.

Finally, it may seem extreme to debate the likelihood that this child is charged as an adult and convicted of murder.  However, he certainly wouldn’t be the first twelve-year-old charged as an adult: see here, here, and here.

Tennessee Supreme Court supports indigent defense changes. Part 2

Two months ago, I wrote about the Tennessee Indigent Representation Task Force’s 204-page report that recommended changes to indigent defense in Tennessee.  This month, the Tennessee Supreme Court backed some of the recommendations in the report.  Specifically, the Court is supporting legislative changes that would raise the hourly compensation rate of appointed attorneys from $40/hr out of court and $50/hr in court to $65/hr.  The Court is also asking to raise the caps on felonies by $500 and juvenile matters by $250.

Further, the Court seeks to offset some of the additional costs by creating an appellate division of the public defenders’ offices and a conflicts division to handle cases that the public defenders conflict out of.  A proposed statewide commission would oversee these divisions and indigent representation in general.  Another way the Court seeks to offset the cost is through the modification of indigency forms.  These modifications would require judges to explain and certify the existence of a conflict before appointing private counsel.

Finally, the Court will implement periodic billing to address the problem of waiting long periods of time (sometimes years) to bill out a case.

My take on these proposed changes:

$65/hr is more than fair.  Honestly, $40/hr is fine.  The biggest issue at the moment is the case caps are not “calibrated” correctly for the number of hours a case takes.  For example, a misdemeanor general sessions case has a cap of $1,000.  Rarely, will anyone ever need to even come close to the cap.  On the other hand, a termination of parental rights is $1,000, even though this all but guarantees a full blown trial.  In my opinion, an attorney should go over the cap in most termination of parental rights cases.

My other issue with these changes is that they encourage attorneys to work fewer hours.  For example, a $1,500 felony at $40/hr takes 37.5 hours to cap out.  After these proposed changes, a $2,000 felony at $65/hr would only take 30.7 hours to cap out.  This just provides stronger incentive for attorneys to plea cases out.

Best Tennessee Legal Blogs

Here are the best legal blogs in Tennessee:

Raybin Tennessee Supreme Court Hot List

Raybin Tennessee Supreme Court Hot List is my favorite legal blog.  David Raybin, author of the three-volume Tennessee Criminal Practice and Procedure treatise, and Ben Raybin, former clerk for two U.S. Court of Appeals judges, edit this blog.  Not only do they keep me updated on Tennessee Supreme Court cases, but they also predict how the Court is going to decide.  These predictions are often accurate and sometimes useful in advising clients.

Herston on Tennessee Family Law

This blog is invaluable if you practice family law in Tennessee.  It is regularly updated and covers everything from our higher courts to lessons learned during divorce.  The author, K.O. Herston, graduated from the University of Tennessee College of Law, where he was on the editorial board of the law review, and has been practicing law in Knoxville for over 20 years.

Scotblog by Daniel A. Horwitz

More opinionated than the above blogs, Scotblog nonetheless provides valuable insight from a brilliant legal mind.  His scholarship has been published in numerous journals, including the Harvard Latino Law Review, the University of Memphis Law Review, the Tennessee Journal of Law and Policy, the SMU Science and Technology Law Review, the Tennesse Bar Journal, and the Nashville Bar Journal.  Notable for those of us in the Upper Cumberland, Horwitz has filed a lawsuit against the Honorable Sam Benningfield and Sheriff Oddie Shoupe, for the sterilization program that was in the news.


Other Valuable Blogs

Day on Torts by John Day

Faughnan on Ethics by Brian Faughnan

Sentencing Law and Policy by Douglas Berman

Sixth Circuit Appellate Blog

Tennessee Appellate Review by Bradley

Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals Update by Matt Bailey

Tennessee Defense Litigation by Jason Lee

And last, but certainly not least, Scotusblog

What are some good blogs that I’m missing?


Useful Links:

Tennessee Benchbooks

Upper Cumberland Law Firm Websites