Tennessee Supreme Court to Hear Oral Arguments at Boys' State in Cookeville

The Tennessee Supreme Court will hear oral arguments on May 22, 2024, before an accomplished group of rising high school seniors at the Tennessee American Legion Boys State at Tennessee Technological University in Cookeville.  The event is part of the Court’s SCALES program, which stands for Supreme Court Advancing Legal Education for Students.  SCALES is an initiative launched by the Tennessee Supreme Court in 1995 to educate high school students about the Tennessee legal system and the functions of the judicial branch. 

“It is essential for our young people to see the judicial system in action and up close,” said Chief Justice Holly Kirby. “We are excited to bring this special session to Tennessee Tech University where students will have the opportunity to experience both a civil and criminal case before the Tennessee Supreme Court.”

The Court session is just one element of the weeklong Boys State program, which is designed to provide rising high school seniors with an immersive experience in state government operations.  In addition to learning about the judicial process and studying the cases presented at oral argument, Boys State participants hear from a number of other elected officials in Tennessee.  Student delegates also hold mock elections, conduct legislative sessions, and participate in presentations, assemblies, and recreational programs.                      

Boys State participants will observe oral arguments in two cases beginning at 9:00 a.m. CST on May 22, 2024.  The cases will be livestreamed to the TNCourts YouTube page:  https://www.youtube.com/user/TNCourts/featured.    

The cases that the Court and the students will hear are:

  • Heather Smith v. BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee – Plaintiff-Appellee Heather Smith was an employee of Defendant-Appellant BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee.  Ms. Smith filed this lawsuit against BlueCross BlueShield for common law retaliatory discharge, alleging she was terminated in retaliation for exercising her constitutional right to contact her legislators regarding employer vaccine mandates in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic.  BlueCross BlueShield moved to dismiss Ms. Smith’s case for failure to state a claim, asserting that there is not an applicable public policy exception to Ms. Smith’s at-will employment.  The trial court granted the motion to dismiss.  The Court of Appeals reversed, holding “that Article I, Section 23 of the Tennessee Constitution, which guarantees the right of citizens to petition the government, is a clear and unambiguous statement of public policy representing an exception to the doctrine of employment-at-will.”  The Tennessee Supreme Court granted BlueCross Blueshield’s application for permission to appeal to determine whether the right to petition the government in Article I, Section 23 of the Tennessee Constitution represents a public policy exception to the employment-at-will doctrine.
  • State v. William Rimmel, III – On August 12, 2018, the Defendant, William Rimmel, III, was involved in a road rage incident on Interstate 24 near Chattanooga.  At the time of the incident, Mr. Rimmel was riding a Ninja motorcycle, and the victim was driving a Honda civic.  Each accused the other of forcing their respective vehicles off the road.  After both vehicles came to a rest at the side of the interstate, the victim drove forward into the back end of Mr. Rimmel’s motorcycle.  Mr. Rimmel approached the passenger side window of the victim’s car and used a steel object to break the window.  Unknown to the victim at the time, the steel object used to break the window was a handgun slide.  After a trial, Mr. Rimmel was convicted of attempted aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, reckless endangerment with a deadly weapon, vandalism, and attempted burglary of a vehicle.  The trial court sentenced Mr. Rimmel to eleven months and twenty-nine days of incarceration followed by two years of probation.  Mr. Rimmel appealed, and the Court of Criminal Appeals affirmed his convictions and sentence.  The Tennessee Supreme Court granted Mr. Rimmel’s application for permission to appeal to determine whether the evidence was sufficient to sustain the convictions for attempted aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and reckless endangerment with a deadly weapon where the victim was unaware of the deadly weapon during the incident.   

In addition, a third case will be submitted to the Court on the briefs: 

  • Daryl A. Gray v. Board of Professional Responsibility of the Supreme Court of Tennessee – This attorney disciplinary action arises from two complaints against Daryl A. Gray.  After an investigation of the two complaints and an evidentiary hearing, a hearing panel of the Tennessee Board of Professional Responsibility found that Mr. Gray’s conduct violated six rules of professional conduct while representing two clients in personal injury actions.  The hearing panel recommended a six-month suspension of Mr. Gray’s license to practice law, with two months served as an active suspension and the remainder on probation.  Mr. Gray filed a petition for review in the trial court, which affirmed the hearing panel’s findings and sentence.  Mr. Gray now appeals to the Tennessee Supreme Court pursuant to Tennessee Supreme Court Rule 9, section 33.1(d).  At issue is whether the hearing panel’s findings of fact relating to the two complaints were supported by substantial and material evidence, and whether the recommended six-month sentence is contrary to the ABA Standards for Imposing Lawyer Sanctions.

Media members planning to attend oral arguments should review Supreme Court Rule 30 and file any required requests to Samantha Fisher, Communications Director: Samantha.fisher@tncourts.gov