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VOL. 123 | NO. 213 | Thursday, October 30, 2008

State Supreme Court To Hear Cases In Memphis

By Bill Dries

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TRAVELING THE CIRCUIT: The Tennessee Supreme Court will be in Memphis on Tuesday to hear oral arguments in three cases. Shown from left are justices Cornelia A. Clark, William C. Koch Jr., Gary R. Wade, Sharon G. Lee and Chief Justice Janice Holder, center. -- PHOTO COURTESY OF THE ADMINISTRATIVE OFFICE OF THE COURTS

The Tennessee Supreme Court is coming to Memphis on election day.

The five-member court will be hearing three oral arguments in three cases at the Shelby County Courthouse on Tuesday afternoon.

Sue Allison, public information officer for the Administrative Office of the Courts, said the state’s highest court is authorized by the Tennessee Constitution to hold proceedings in each of the three grand divisions of the state – west, middle and east.

“It’s oral arguments with attorneys for each side arguing. Then (the justices) will render a written opinion in several months,” Allison told The Daily News. The justices also ask questions of both sides during the hearings.

The Nov. 4 session will be the court’s first Memphis session since all of the vacancies on the court were filled and Justice Janice Holder of Memphis became the chief justice, the first woman in Tennessee history to hold the position. With the recent appointment of Justice Sharon G. Lee, the court has a three-member female majority for the first time in its history.

The court will swear in new attorneys during a 10 a.m. ceremony Tuesday.

The court will then hear arguments in three cases at a 1 p.m. session at the courthouse.

The three cases the court will hear are:

Derek Davis v. Mark Luttrell:

This is a case that involves an unreadable number on a bar code.?Davis was fired from the Shelby County Sheriff’s Department in 2002 after he failed a random drug test. The Civil Service Merit Board upheld his dismissal.

But the Tennessee Court of Appeals ruled Davis’ dismissal was “arbitrary.” It reversed the Chancery Court decision by Chancellor Arnold B. Goldin that upheld the firing of the sheriff’s deputy.

Davis contested the chain of custody of the first and a second urine specimen. The first sample tested positive for drug use. The second sample had been diluted and those test results were invalid.

“Most significantly, neither the department nor Medlab (which did the testing) was able to determine whether the bar code on the specimen at issue here in fact matched the chain of custody number on the Medlab form signed by Mr. Davis,” Appeals Court Judge David R. Farmer wrote in the court’s 2007 opinion.

Highwoods Properties Inc. et al v. City of Memphis:

The Raleigh, N.C.-based real estate investment trust is taking the city to court over the city’s planned annexation of the Southwind-Wyndyke area. Highwoods is one of several groups that challenged the intended annexation in court.

But Highwoods filed its suit in 2005, eight years after the ordinance was approved by the Memphis City Council and almost as many years after other groups in the area tried unsuccessfully to contest the action in court. Highwoods was seeking to have its lawsuit combined with the others.

In 2005, Chancellor D.J. Alissandratos rejected the lawsuit on the grounds that it wasn’t filed in a timely manner.

The Court of Appeals affirmed the ruling two years ago this month.

Helen Borner et al v. Danny R. Autry:

This involves medical bills from a 2004 car crash between Borner and Autry in Madison County, Tenn. Borner filed suit against Autry seeking payment for $3,977.75 in medical bills. The medical bills were more than that, but Borner amended the total bills to fall under a $4,000 limit in state law. Medical expenses exceeding $4,000 in such civil suits require expert medical testimony on the appropriateness of the amount and type of medical care before a court can rule on payment of the expenses.

Circuit Court Judge Donald Allen, in Jackson, Tenn., ruled Borner couldn’t amend the medical bills in that way and still seek the claim. The state Court of Appeals upheld his ruling and sent the case back to his court.

“There is nothing in the language of this statute from which this court can conclude that the Legislature intended parties to be able to pick and choose among their medical bills in order to force those bills into the statutory scheme,” the appeals court ruled in a 2007 opinion.

From Memphis, the justices will travel to Jackson, Tenn., on Wednesday to hear arguments in three other cases and swear in new attorneys there as well.

PROPERTY SALES 92 242 2,507
MORTGAGES 108 336 2,943
BUILDING PERMITS 202 643 6,711
BANKRUPTCIES 43 176 1,963