A Rhea County Circuit Court jury on Tuesday evening found former state Rep. Jim Cobb, R-Spring City, not guilty of assaulting a woman in a wheelchair who supported Cobb’s opponent in the Aug. 2 primary election, reports the Chattanooga TFP. “The verdict speaks for itself,” said Cobb, who previously dismissed the misdemeanor assault charge as “politically motivated.”
The decision came at 6:40 p.m. after about an hour’s deliberation at the historic Rhea County Courthouse in downtown Dayton, Tenn. Cobb turned himself in to the county jail on Oct. 3 after a grand jury indicted him.
According to a Rhea County Sheriff’s Office report, Goins was sitting in her wheelchair at Frazier Elementary School in Dayton, campaigning for Cobb’s opponent, Ron Travis, when Cobb got out of his pickup truck and attempted to knock down a Travis sign.
Goins feared “imminent bodily injury,” the report stated, and thought Cobb was going to hit her after he raised his hand. Cobb, meanwhile, said there was no contact and not even harsh words directed toward Goins.
How much patients in Tennessee can recover for their pain and suffering could be significantly affected in the coming months if the state’s Supreme Court hears a challenge of a new law that limits medical malpractice awards, reports The Tennessean. The issue has taken on urgency as fungal meningitis victims start to craft medical malpractice lawsuits and attorneys weigh whether the suits will be filed in Tennessee or in Massachusetts, where injured patients can sue medical facilities for unlimited amounts of money for pain and suffering.
Gov. Bill Haslam signed the Tennessee Civil Justice Act of 2011 into law last July. The law does not restrict how much patients can recover in medical bills and lost wages in malpractice suits. But it caps rewards for nontangible injuries, such as pain and suffering, at $750,000. About half of the states limit awards for pain and suffering in malpractice cases, and for years legal battles have been waged throughout the country to overturn the caps. Tennessee could emerge as the latest battlefield.
Trial lawyer David Randolph Smith, a prominent progressive attorney who led the legal opposition to the guns-in-bars law and the English-only ballot measure, filed a federal lawsuit three months ago challenging Haslam’s landmark tort reform law as unconstitutional.
…Recent decisions in other states offer conflicting results.
Earlier this month, the Kansas Supreme Court upheld its $250,000 cap on pain and suffering damages.
In August, however, the high court in Missouri struck down caps on liability payouts. The Missouri court’s majority opinion said: “The right to trial by jury … is not subject to legislative limits on damages.”.
(Note: The different rulings may turn on differences in state constitutions and the federal court may send the case to the state Supreme Court for a decision on whether the damages limitation violates the Tennessee constitution. A relevant provision is in Article I, Section 6 of the state constitution’s Bill of Rights: “That the right of trial by jury shall remain inviolate, and no religious or political test shall ever be required as a qualification for jurors.” )
A Davidson County grand jury has formally returned an indictment against state Rep. Curry Todd, R-Collierville, who was arrested last October on DUI and gun charges, reports The Tennessean. Todd’s attorney said Friday’s indictments were not a surprise. In addition to the criminal indictments, Todd was indicted on a charge of implied consent, a civil offense that can lead to loss of a driver’s license.
“This is part of a normal process,” Nashville attorney Worrick Robinson said. “We have been expecting this to happen at some point. We’ll address the issues and the charges when required in court.”
Despite the arrest, Todd, who is a retired police officer, does not face opposition for his House seat.
Speaker of the House Beth Harwell said Monday that the indictments will make it “difficult if not impossible” for Todd to be restored to his powerful post as chairman of the House State and Local Government Committee, which he resigned after his arrest.
“Certainly I respect the legal system,” Harwell said. “I think all along Rep. Todd and I have both said we will abide with the decision of the judicial system. So clearly we will. I’ll think through what action will take place at the legislative level, but certainly it will impact.”
…No arraignment date has been set on the case, according to district attorney spokeswoman Susan Niland.
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — A jury convicted a Georgia man Tuesday of a federal firearms charge in what authorities said was a plot to take over a Tennessee courthouse and force President Barack Obama out of office.
Darren Wesley Huff, 41, was found guilty of carrying a firearm in interstate commerce with the intent to use it in a civil disorder. He was acquitted of using a firearm in relation to another felony. He faces up to five years in prison.
“The verdict on count one reflects exactly what the law is supposed to do, which is prevent harm before shots get fired, people hurt, or property damaged,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Will Mackie told reporters after the verdict.
Scott Green, Huff’s attorney, did not comment after the verdict. When he spoke The Associated Press on Monday before the verdict, Green quoted former New York City Mayor John V. Lindsay: “Those who suppress freedom always do so in the name of law and order.”
Huff was stopped by Tennessee officers in April 2010 and told them he was bringing guns into the state from Dallas, Ga., to support efforts to arrest Monroe County officials who refused to indict Obama.
Huff was a part of a Georgia militia and the ‘birther’ movement that disputes Obama’s U.S. citizenship.
Officers testified Huff was carrying a loaded Colt .45 in a holster on his hip plus an assault rifle and 200 or 300 rounds of ammunition in a tool box in his truck. They said he also had a document he claimed was a “citizens’ arrest warrant” for officials, saying they were domestic enemies and had been charged with treason.
Huff testified that he wanted to help Walter Fitzpatrick, a military retiree living in Madisonville, who was arrested after he tried to put the local grand jury foreman under citizen’s arrest. Fitzpatrick, who became hostile to the government two decades ago when he faced a court-martial, is in jail over that incident.
Huff choked back tears as he told the jury Friday that he was humiliated because “my government has called me a potential domestic terrorist.”
He denied he threatened to take over the courthouse in Monroe County, which is about halfway between Knoxville and Chattanooga.
“I have never made a statement about taking over the courthouse, the city, the state, nothing,” Huff said.
U.S. District Judge Thomas Varlan ordered Huff into custody following the jury’s conviction. Huff, wearing a light green shirt and khakis, was handcuffed by officers in the courtroom. A sentencing hearing was scheduled in February.
From Nashville’s WSMV-TV:
Former Gov. Phil Bredesen was downtown Wednesday sitting on a jury for a local court case.
Bredesen said he was selected for jury duty before he left office earlier this year. However, the judge said it wouldn’t be appropriate for a sitting governor to serve on a jury, so they set a date in August when he was out of office and could serve.
He didn’t think he would actually be picked but said he is glad he was chosen.
“I think people sometimes think of it as some big imposition. There were a few people on this jury who just found some excuse to try to get out but I think it’s a great civic understanding and I think it really helps people understand a lot more how the justice system really works,” said Bredesen.
The former governor said he asked the attorneys why they didn’t throw him out of the jury pool. They told him they kept him because they thought he’d be fair.
The governor and his fellow jurors heard a child molestation case in which they found the defendant guilty.
Article VI, Section 3 of Tennessee’s state constitution has received a fair amount of attention in the Legislature during recent years. A lot of other provisions in the venerable and debatable document have not.
The much-noted sentence says, “The judges of the Supreme Court shall be elected by the qualified voters of this state.” The key word for discussion is “elected.”
By the standard doubtless understood in 1870, the date of the most recent wholesale rewriting of our constitution, elected would likely mean having candidates for Supreme Court justice run against one another with the winner taking office.
They do not so compete, of course. The Legislature has provided instead that Supreme Court judges are appointed by the governor from a list of nominees submitted by a commission. Voters only get to choose “yes or no” on whether the governor’s appointees get a new term after the appointment expires.