Tennessee Supreme Court To Livestream Video Conference Oral Arguments March 31

March 29, 2021

The Tennessee Supreme Court has two cases set for its March 31, 2021 docket. One case will be heard using livestream video conferencing and can be viewed at www.youtube.com/tncourts/feature, starting at 9 a.m. The other case will be submitted on briefs. The details of the cases are as follows:

  • State of Tennessee v. Jeremy Reynolds– A jury convicted Defendant Jeremy Reynolds of first-degree premeditated murder for shooting and killing a Hamilton County man. Mr. Reynolds appealed his conviction raising several arguments, including that the evidence was insufficient to support his conviction and that the trial court erred in admitting evidence of gang-related activities. The Court of Criminal Appeals agreed the evidence was insufficient to prove premeditated murder but determined the evidence was sufficient to support a conviction for second-degree murder. Rather than modifying his conviction to second-degree murder, however, the Court of Criminal Appeals remanded for a new trial on that charge. The intermediate court decided a new trial was necessary because the trial court committed reversible error by admitting testimony of Mr. Reynolds’ gang activities, including evidence about the gang’s background and the actions of Mr. Reynolds’ gang associates. The Tennessee Supreme Court granted the State’s application for permission to appeal in which the State argued that the Court of Criminal Appeals applied an incorrect standard of appellate review to Mr. Reynolds’ challenge to the sufficiency of the evidence and that this error resulted in the intermediate appellate court erroneously concluding that the evidence was insufficient to support Mr. Reynolds’ conviction for first-degree murder. Additionally, the State argued that Mr. Reynolds failed to preserve his claim that the trial court erred by admitting evidence of his gang activities. Therefore, according to the State, the appellate court should have applied plain-error review not plenary review when considering those arguments. The State claimed that when the standards for plain-error review are applied, Mr. Reynolds is not entitled to relief on any of his evidentiary claims. In response, Mr. Reynolds argues that the State failed to prove premeditation beyond a reasonable doubt, a necessary element of his first-degree murder conviction, and that he properly raised and preserved his objection to the use of any gang-related evidence at trial; therefore, he is entitled to relief on this issue.
  • In re Loring Edwin Justice– In 2013, the Board of Professional Responsibility (“Board”) initiated a disciplinary proceeding against attorney Loring Edwin Justice based on allegations that he gave false statements under oath, testified falsely in a federal district court, and sought unreasonable fees for his legal work. This disciplinary proceeding culminated in an appeal to and a decision by the Tennessee Supreme Court in which the Supreme Court affirmed the trial court’s decision to disbar Mr. Justice. After the Supreme Court’s decision became final, the Board assessed costs and expenses of the litigation totaling $25,403.65 against Mr. Justice. Mr. Justice challenged the assessment, arguing that he should be relieved from paying costs because the underlying disciplinary proceedings were unconstitutional and violated his Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination. Additionally, Mr. Justice challenged the Board’s calculations and the reasonableness of hours assessed in its costs of litigation. A panel of the Board (“Board Panel”) was assigned to adjudicate the petition.  Two months after filing his petition, Mr. Justice requested permission to conduct discovery and to hold an evidentiary hearing related to his petition. The Board Panel denied these requests and conducted a hearing at which counsel were allowed to present arguments on the petition. The Board Panel later ruled on the petition, sustained some of Mr. Justice’s objections, but ultimately approved an assessment of costs and expenses against Mr. Justice totaling $24,547.65. In his appeal to the Tennessee Supreme Court from the Board Panel’s decision, Mr. Justice reiterates his argument that he should be relieved from costs because the underlying disciplinary proceedings were unconstitutional. Additionally, Mr. Justice argues that the Board Panel’s findings were not supported by substantial and material evidence and that the Board Panel abused its discretion in denying his requests for discovery and an evidentiary hearing, among other procedural issues. The Board argues that Mr. Justice’s constitutional arguments were adjudicated against him in the underlying appeal and cannot be relitigated in this appeal.  The Board also asserts that the Board Panel’s findings were supported by substantial and material evidence and that Mr. Justice was not entitled to discovery or an evidentiary hearing under Tennessee law.

Media members planning to attend oral arguments virtually should plan to watch the YouTube livestream or contact Barbara Peck at barbara.peck@tncourts.gov