Tennessee Supreme Court To Livestream Video Conference Oral Arguments February 24

February 23, 2021

The Tennessee Supreme Court has three cases set for its February 24, 2021 docket. The first case will be heard using livestream video conferencing. It is scheduled to begin at 9 a.m. CST at:  https://www.youtube.com/user/TNCourts/featured.  The second and third cases will be submitted on briefs. The details of the cases are as follows:

  • State of Tennessee v. Tyshon Booker –Tyshon Booker was charged with two counts of first-degree felony murder and two counts of especially aggravated robbery following the 2015 shooting death of a Knoxville man. Mr. Booker was sixteen-years-old at the time of the shooting but was tried as an adult. Mr. Booker was convicted of the charges and received a life sentence for his first-degree murder conviction. Tennessee law requires a defendant sentenced to life imprisonment to serve fifty-one years in prison before becoming eligible for release. Mr. Booker appealed to the Court of Criminal Appeals, and argued, among other issues, that automatically sentencing him to life imprisonment as a juvenile and requiring him to serve fifty-one years in confinement before becoming eligible for release amounted to excessive, cruel, and unusual punishment that violated the United States and Tennessee Constitutions. The Court of Criminal Appeals affirmed Mr. Booker’s convictions and his life sentence. As for his constitutional challenge to the life sentence, the intermediate appellate court concluded that it was bound by Tennessee precedent holding that a mandatory, fifty-one-year life sentence for a juvenile does not violate the federal and state constitutions. The Tennessee Supreme Court accepted Mr. Booker’s application for permission to appeal and limited the issues to: (1) whether the sentence of life imprisonment, as applied to Mr. Booker as a juvenile, violates the Eighth Amendment of the United States Constitution or article 1, section 16 of the Tennessee Constitution; and (2) what sentencing options may be available under Tennessee law if the Court determines that the sentence of life imprisonment is improper. Over fifty amici curiae have filed briefs in this matter including the ACLU Foundation of Tennessee, the Campaign for the Fair Sentencing of Youth, and Cyntoia Brown Long.
  • Affordable Care Construction Services, Inc. v. Auto-Owners Insurance Company et al. –This matter comes to the Supreme Court as a certified question of law from the United States District Court for the Western District of Tennessee. Affordable Care Construction Services, Inc. (“Affordable Construction”) initially filed this lawsuit against Auto-Owners Insurance Company (“Owners”) in a Tennessee trial court, but Owners removed the case to federal court. Affordable Construction is seeking payment for work it completed as a general contractor repairing insured property damage for Grand Valley Lakes Property Owners Association, Inc. (“Grand Valley”). Grand Valley allegedly promised to pay Affordable Construction for the work from insurance proceeds it expected to receive under its property and casualty insurance policy with Owners. However, when Owners and Grand Valley settled a separate lawsuit involving Grand Valley’s insurance claim, Owners paid the settlement directly to Grand Valley and did not name Affordable Construction as a joint payee on the check. In the pending lawsuit, Affordable Construction contends that Tennessee law required Owners to make the settlement check jointly payable to Affordable Construction and Grand Valley, as general contractor and insured respectively, and that Tennessee law provides Affordable Construction with an implied private right of action to enforce its claim. Owners argues that it had no statutory obligation to make the check jointly payable because Affordable Construction had no enforceable contract with Grand Valley, and, even if there were, the construction contract was not “uncomplete” as required by the statute. Affordable Construction argues that Tennessee law does not require an enforceable contract between the general contractor and the insured, but rather applies if a general contractor undertakes any work on a project for the insured. Pursuant to Tennessee Supreme Court Rule 23, the federal court certified, and the Tennessee Supreme Court accepted, the following three questions for review: (1) Does Tennessee Code Annotated section 56-7-111 provide for a private right of action? (2) In order for an insurance company to be obligated to name a general contractor as a payee on the check that it writes to its insured under Tennessee Code Annotate section 56-7-111, must there have been a contract between the general contractor and the insured? (3) If a contract between the general contractor and the insured is required in order for the statute to apply, must that contract be uncompleted at the time the check is written?
  • In re Larry E. Parrish – In this appeal, attorney Larry E. Parrish challenges the procedure the Board of Professional Responsibility (the “Board”) used to assess the costs it incurred during the litigation of his 2013 attorney-discipline matter. Attorney disciplinary proceedings and related matters are largely governed by Tennessee Supreme Court Rule 9, which underwent extensive revision effective January 1, 2014. The underlying complaint against Mr. Parrish was initiated in 2013, and, after appeal, resulted in a six-month suspension of Mr. Parrish’s law license in 2018. The Board assessed its costs pursuant to the pre-2014 version of Rule 9 and sent a statement directly to Mr. Parrish. Mr. Parrish made one payment on a monthly installment plan and then filed a petition to revoke imposition of costs with a hearing panel of the Board. Mr. Parrish argued that the revised 2014 version of Rule 9 governed the assessment of costs in his case, even though the pre-2014 version of Rule 9 governed his disciplinary proceeding. According to Mr. Parrish, the payment and assessment of costs was part of his reinstatement proceeding, and the 2014 version of Rule 9 governs reinstatement proceedings, regardless of when the disciplinary proceeding resulting in the suspension occurred. Therefore, Mr. Parrish argued, according to the 2014 version of Rule 9, the Board should have sent its claim for costs to the hearing panel for approval, and by not doing so, the Board waived its claim for costs. The Board filed a motion for summary judgment, which the hearing panel granted. The hearing panel acknowledged that the revised 2014 version of Rule 9 applied to Mr. Parrish’s reinstatement proceedings; however, it held that the assessment of costs was part of the initial disciplinary proceeding that was still governed by the pre-2014 version of the rule. The hearing panel denied Mr. Parrish’s motion to alter or amend, and he appealed to the Tennessee Supreme Court, raising the same issues. In response, the Board reiterates that the pre-2014 version of Rule 9 governs the assessment of costs in Mr. Parrish’s disciplinary proceeding and that his disciplinary proceeding is separate from his reinstatement proceeding, which is governed by the 2014 version of Rule 9. Additionally, the Board argues that its assessment of costs was reasonable and that Mr. Parrish has provided no justification to avoid paying the costs incurred during the five years of litigation.

Media members planning to cover oral arguments virtually should contact Barbara Peck at barbara.peck@tncourts.gov