Kingsport, Tenn. – Over 500 local high school students will get the chance to witness the state’s highest court at work when the Tennessee Supreme Court hears oral arguments for two cases on November 19, 2019, in Kingsport, Tennessee, as part of the Court’s SCALES program. SCALES stands for the Supreme Court Advancing Legal Education for Students. This nationally acclaimed program, over 20 years in operation, has allowed over 36,000 students across Tennessee to learn more about the Tennessee legal system and the function of the appellate courts. The program provides the students this first-hand experience through a partnership of attorneys, teachers, and students. Prior to the event, volunteer attorneys and judges visit the students’ classrooms to discuss the actual cases the students will hear and help them understand more about the process.
“Hearing cases before the students of this great State is one of our most enjoyable experiences,” said Chief Justice Jeff Bivins. “It is a unique opportunity for the Court to participate in civics education for Tennessee’s students. I am grateful to The Eastman Company, judges of the 1st and 2nd Judicial Districts, Julie Bennett of Bristol Motor Speedway, the local legal and business community, and the educators whose hard work has made this event possible.”
A plethora of local judges and attorneys help make the event possible. Local judges who have helped educate students in advance of the program this fall include 1st Judicial District Circuit Court Judge Eddie Lauderback, 2nd Judicial District Criminal Court Judge Jim Goodwin, Sullivan County General Sessions Court Judge David W. Tipton, Sullivan County Juvenile Court Judge Randy M. Kennedy, Bluff City Municipal Judge Michael Large, and Town of Erwin Municipal Judge Sarah Shults.
Those judges and local attorneys helped prepare students from the following area high schools for this SCALES event: Sullivan North High School, Sullivan South High School, Sullivan East High School, Dobyns-Bennett High School, D-B EXCEL, Bristol Tennessee High School, Elizabethton High School, Unicoi County High School, Daniel Boone High School, David Crockett High School, Providence Academy, and Science Hill High School.
The details of the cases that the Court and students will hear are as follows:
Tuesday, November 19, 2019
- Joshua Keller v. Janice Casteel et al. – This case was initiated after Joshua Keller was terminated from his position as a firefighter with the city of Cleveland based on a criminal conviction and “disgraceful personal conduct.” The decision to terminate Mr. Keller was made by the Fire Chief, in consultation with the City Manager, Human Resources, and the City Attorney. Mr. Keller appealed the decision, and the City Manager upheld the termination. Mr. Keller then sought review of the termination in the chancery court, alleging violations of the Uniform Administrative Procedures Act and his procedural due process rights under the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution. The chancery court granted Mr. Keller’s request to include federal claims, and the case was removed to the federal district court. As to the federal claims, the district court held that Mr. Keller did not have a property interest in his employment, given that the Personnel Manual explicitly states that it does not create a contract. Thus, the district court granted summary judgment in favor of the defendants and remanded the case to the chancery court for resolution of the state law claims. The chancery court ultimately affirmed the decision of the City to terminate Mr. Keller’s employment, holding that the Personnel Manual did not create a contract. The Court of Appeals reversed the chancery court decision and held that “the procedure utilized [by the City] was unlawful because the person who made the termination decision also affirmed the same decision on appeal,” even if “the City Manager acted with material evidence in support of her decision.” The Court of Appeals reasoned that, while the Personnel Manual explicitly states it does not create a contract, it does provide for a right to an appeals process and judicial review of the decision. On appeal to this Court, the City argues that Mr. Keller does not have a property interest in his employment entitling him to due process protections in termination proceedings. Alternatively, the City argues that, even if he does have a property interest, the procedure satisfied due process. Lastly, the City argues that even if Mr. Keller’s due process rights were violated, the Court of Appeals lacked authority to remand the case for a calculation of damages.
- State of Tennessee v. Steve M. Jarman – The defendant, Steve M. Jarman, was convicted by a jury of voluntary manslaughter following the shooting death of his then girlfriend. Prior to trial, Mr. Jarman sought to exclude evidence of his prior assault charge against the same victim, for which Mr. Jarman was acquitted. The trial court allowed the State to introduce the evidence at trial, reasoning that the evidence surrounding the acquitted charge was relevant to issues of motive and intent in the current case, and, under Tennessee Rule of Evidence 404(b), the prejudicial effect of the evidence did not outweigh its probative value. The Court of Criminal Appeals reversed Mr. Jarman’s conviction for voluntary manslaughter and held that the trial court erred in admitting the evidence against Mr. Jarman. The majority opinion of the intermediate court explained that it was bound by State v. Holman, 611 S.W.2d 411, 413 (Tenn. 1981), which categorically prohibits “acquitted-act” evidence from being introduced against a defendant in a subsequent trial. The State sought review from the Supreme Court, arguing that the Court should reconsider its holding in Holman. The State contends that an acquittal does not necessarily mean that the evidence fails to prove Mr. Jarman committed the act by clear and convincing evidence, which is the standard for admitting evidence of “other crimes” under Tennessee Rule of Evidence 404(b). Additionally, the State argues that evidence of the acquitted charge was properly admitted in this case under Rule 404(b). Mr. Jarman argues that Holman presents a fair and reasonable way to protect any person acquitted of a crime from having to defend oneself of that same charge in a subsequent trial. Additionally, Mr. Jarman argues that the evidence in this case is inadmissible under the rules of evidence.
Local participating attorneys include the following: Rebecca Ketchie, Issac Allman, Michael Forrester, Christopher Raines, Marjorie Thornton, Julie Bennett, Dan Coughlin, J. Wesley Edens, Paul Frye, Carter Massengill, Andrew Hanson, Karissa Range, Polly Peterson, Dudley Senter, Ashley Boyer, Rogers McCall, Erin Downs, E. Lynn Dougherty, Drew Street, Brandy Balding, Jordan Barnette, Annie Howard, Neal Lewis, Melissa Reading, Will Freemon, Mark A. Fulks, Jessica Newhart, Tanner Beck, Jamie L. Herman, Myers N. Massengill II, Eric Reecher, Lesley Tiller, and Suzanne Queen.