Justia Tennessee Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Government & Administrative Law
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Starbuck filed a nominating petition seeking to be placed on the ballot for the Republican primary for Tennessee’s 5th Congressional District for the U.S. House of Representatives. The Tennessee Republican Party, through the Tennessee Republican Party State Executive Committee (TRP SEC), determined that Starbuck was not a bona fide Republican, and would not appear on the ballot. Starbuck sought declaratory and injunctive relief, alleging that the defendants violated the Tennesse Open Meetings Act (TOMA), Tenn. Code 8-44-101-111, by determining in a non-public meeting that he is not a bona fide Republican.The trial court concluded that the defendants violated TOMA and ordered that Starbuck be restored to the ballot. The Tennessee Supreme Court assumed jurisdiction and vacated. Only the state primary boards, not the state executive committees, are required to comply with TOMA (Tenn. Code 2-13-108(a)(2)). Section 2-13-104 provides that “a party may require by rule that candidates for its nominations be bona fide members of the party.” Under section 2-5-204(b)(2), a party’s state executive committee makes the determination of whether a candidate is a bona fide member of the party. TRP SEC, by statute, was acting as a state executive committee, and not a state primary board, when it determined that Starbuck was not a bona fide Republican and was not required to comply with TOMA. View "Newsom v. Tennessee Republican Party" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the dismissal of Melissa Kampmeyer's loss of consortium claim brought after her husband, Steven Kampmeyer, was injured in an accident, holding that Tenn. Code Ann. 9-8-402(a)(1) requires claimants to give written notice of their claim to the Division of Claims and Risk Management as a condition precedent to recovery.Steven was injured when his car collided with a Tennessee state vehicle parked in the roadway. Steven gave written notice of his claim to the Tennessee Division of Claims and Risk Management, which transferred the claim to the Tennessee Claims Commission. Steven and Melissa then filed a complaint with the Claims Commission. The complaint contained Melissa's loss of consortium claim, which was not in the written notice Steven gave to the Division of Claims and Risk Management. The Claims Commission dismissed Melissa's loss of consortium claim as time-barred. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that because Melissa did not give written notice of her claim to the Division of Claims and Risk Management within the one-year statute of limitations, her loss of consortium claim was time-barred. View "Kampmeyer v. State" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the court of appeals reversing the judgment of the trial court upholding the transfer of a tenured teacher (Plaintiff), working as a school administrator, to a teaching position because Plaintiff did not have an administrator license, holding that Plaintiff failed to prove that the transfer decision was not made in good faith and was arbitrary, capricious, or improperly motivated.In reversing the trial court, the court of appeals held that a regulation required the director of the school system to review the administrative duties Plaintiff had performed in the past in order to determine whether an administrator license was required, and the director's failure to do so rendered his transfer decision arbitrary and capricious. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) Plaintiff pointed to no provision in the Teacher Tenure Act that prevents a school system from establishing instructional leadership by school administrators as a priority; (2) consistent with the school system's priorities, Plaintiff was precluded from having administrative duties in the upcoming school year that involved more than fifty percent instructional leadership absent an administrator license; and (3) consequently, the director's failure to consider Plaintiff's past work did not render the transfer decision either arbitrary or capricious. View "Geller v. Henry County Board of Education" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the court of criminal appeals and reinstated the judgment of the trial court suspending a bonding company for violating a local rule of court requiring an agent of the bonding company to be present at court appearances of defendants for whom the bonding company serves as surety, holding that the local rule is valid and enforceable.The bonding company in this case conceded that it violated the local rule but asserted that the local rule was inconsistent with Tennessee statutes and was arbitrary and capricious. The court of criminal appeals concluded that the part of the local rule requiring an agent of the bonding company to attend all court appearances was arbitrary, capricious, and illegal. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the local rule does not conflict with state statutes and is not arbitrary, capricious, or unreasonable; and (2) the trial court did not err by suspending the bonding company for violating the local rule. View "In re Cumberland Bail Bonding" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the trial court finding, among other things, that Employee was not permanently and totally disabled after suffering an injury to her left shoulder and awarding temporary total disability benefits from the date of her left shoulder surgery through the date of her voluntary resignation, holding that the evidence supported the trial court's decisions.Employee, who worked for Employer as a shuttle truck driver, sustained a compensable injury to her right shoulder and wrist in August 2010. For this injury Employee entered into a settlement agreement with Employer. After returning to work, in January 2013, Employee suffered an injury to her left shoulder. In March 2015, Employee voluntarily resigned. The trial court ruled (1) Employee was not permanently and totally disabled; (2) because of Employee's voluntary resignation, the 1.5 times cap applied for purposes of reconsideration of the 2010 injury and assessment of the 2013 injury; (3) Employee had a six percent medical impairment rating for the 2013 injury; (4) Employer was not responsible for expenses related to treatment Employee sought on her own; and (5) Employee was entitled to temporary total disability. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the evidence did not preponderate against the trial court's findings. View "Bain v. UTI Integrated Logistics LLC" on Justia Law

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A “preferred service” state employee does not have a protected property interest in his or her employment, and the State did not bear the ultimate burden of proof in a post-termination administrative appeal under section 8-30-318 of the Tennessee Excellence, Accountability, and Management Act of 2012 (TEAM), Tenn Code. Ann. 8-39-101 through -407.After the Tennessee Department of Correction (Petitioner) dismissed David Pressley from his employment as a correctional officer, Pressley challenged his termination under the TEAM Act’s appeals process. The Board of Appeals reinstated Pressley at Step III of the appeals process. The chancery court reversed, concluding that the Board erred in determining that the State bore the ultimate burden of proof in the Step III appeal. The court of appeals, in turn, reversed, determining that preferred service state employees have a protected property interest in their employment and that the Board correctly assigned the ultimate burden of proof. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded the case to the Board, holding (1) preferred service employees do not possess a property interest in their continued employment with the State; and (2) the Board erred when it assigned the ultimate burden of proof to the State to sustain Pressley’s termination for cause. View "Tennessee Department of Correction v. Pressley" on Justia Law

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Rogelynn Emory, a full-time tenured teacher in the Memphis City School System, was terminated after the Memphis City Schools Board of Education concluded after a hearing that there was ample evidence of Emory’s unsatisfactory job performance. Emory subsequently filed a petition for judicial review. The trial court affirmed the Board’s decision. The Court of Appeals declined to reinstate Emory based on the untimeliness of the school board hearing but awarded her partial back pay. The Supreme Court affirmed the decision to upheld the termination of Emory’s employment and clarified the standard of judicial review for the termination of a tenured teacher under the Tenure Act, holding (1) the Court of Appeals’ award of partial back pay was without basis in the Teachers’ Tenure Act; and (2) because Emory failed to raise before the school board any objection as to the timeliness of her hearing, that issue was not properly before the Supreme Court. View "Emory v. Memphis City Schools Board of Education" on Justia Law

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After its closure, a landfill continued to discharge contaminants into a creek that ran into a lake on adjoining property. After several failed remedial measures, ACC, LLC (ACC), the landfill owner, and the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation agreed to a plan to abate the discharge. The plan required ACC to divert water from entering the landfill and, within a four-year period, to remove and relocate the landfill waste. StarLink Logistics, Inc., the landowner of the property on which the lake was located, objected to the plan. The Tennessee Solid Waste Disposal Control Board approved ACC’s plan of action. The trial court affirmed. The Court of Appeals rejected the Board’s decision and remanded the case to the Board to explore more options. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the Court of Appeals misapplied the arbitrary and capricious standard and instead substituted its judgment for that of the Board. Remanded. View "Starlink Logistics, Inc. v. ACC, LLC" on Justia Law

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American Heritage Apartments, Inc., a customer of the Hamilton County Water and Wastewater Treatment Authority (County Authority), filed suit both individually and as a class representative asserting that the County Authority exceeded its statutory authority by imposing a monthly charge on its customers. The County Authority sought dismissal of the lawsuit for failure to exhaust administrative remedies, arguing that a customer who seeks to dispute the rates charged must first follow the administrative procedures provided in the Utility District Law of 1937 (UDL). The trial court agreed and dismissed the lawsuit. The court of appeals reversed. The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part, holding (1) the administrative procedures in Part 4 of the UDL do not apply to a rate challenge filed by an individual customer against a water and wastewater treatment authority, and therefore, the trial court erred in dismissing the lawsuit for failure to exhaust administrative remedies; and (2) the trial court’s alternative ruling on class certification is vacated, and that issue is remanded to the trial court for reconsideration. View "Am. Heritage Apartments, Inc. v. Hamilton County Water & Wastewater Treatment Auth." on Justia Law

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American Heritage Apartments, Inc., a customer of the Hamilton County Water and Wastewater Treatment Authority (County Authority), filed suit both individually and as a class representative asserting that the County Authority exceeded its statutory authority by imposing a monthly charge on its customers. The County Authority sought dismissal of the lawsuit for failure to exhaust administrative remedies, arguing that a customer who seeks to dispute the rates charged must first follow the administrative procedures provided in the Utility District Law of 1937 (UDL). The trial court agreed and dismissed the lawsuit. The court of appeals reversed. The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part, holding (1) the administrative procedures in Part 4 of the UDL do not apply to a rate challenge filed by an individual customer against a water and wastewater treatment authority, and therefore, the trial court erred in dismissing the lawsuit for failure to exhaust administrative remedies; and (2) the trial court’s alternative ruling on class certification is vacated, and that issue is remanded to the trial court for reconsideration. View "Am. Heritage Apartments, Inc. v. Hamilton County Water & Wastewater Treatment Auth." on Justia Law