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What Is the Purpose of Discovery?

Cole Law Legal DiscoveryDiscovery is the formal pre-trial process through which each party in a civil lawsuit may discover legal evidence and facts about the case from the opposing party or parties and witnesses. In Tennessee, discovery is governed by the Tennessee Rules of Civil Procedure and, in many cases, by local rules as well. The general scope of discovery is quite broad. “Parties may obtain discovery regarding any matter, not privileged, which is relevant to the subject matter involved in the pending action…”1 Both Plaintiffs and Defendants should use the discovery process in an effort to prove their claims and defenses and disprove the claims and defenses of the opposing party. The court may limit discovery in certain circumstances.2

There are four main types of discovery that will be utilized in most civil cases:  interrogatories, request for production of documents, requests for admission, and depositions.3

Gavel pounding moneyIn many marriages, one spouse will be the primary breadwinner. If a couple is happily married, a significant disparity in income is often not a cause for concern, but if the couple decides to divorce, the lesser earning spouse is at a financial disadvantage and may wonder if he or she can afford the cost of an attorney. The law aims to protect the rights of all individuals, even individuals that cannot afford an attorney. Thus, in many divorce cases, the court will order one spouse to pay the other spouse’s legal fees. If you intend to end your marriage, it is in your best interest to consult a skillful Tennessee divorce attorney to discuss whether your spouse may be responsible for your legal fees.

Responsibility for Legal Fees

Like many states, Tennessee follows the “American Rule,” which traditionally requires a party to a lawsuit to pay his or her own attorney’s fees unless a statutory or contractual provision states otherwise. State v. Brown & Williamson Tobacco Corp., 18 S.W.3d 186, 194 (Tenn. 2000). Nevertheless, Tennessee statutory law vests trial courts with the discretion to award one party his or her attorney’s fees in the context of a divorce proceeding, and some trial judges may deem such an award to be a form of alimony. See Tenn. Code Ann. § 36-5-103(c).

Military Law Attorney Paul Tennison

Attorney Paul Tennison accepting command of Battery B in Poland on August 15, 2019

A military discharge upgrade can be an important step in the life of a veteran who believes that he or she received a lower discharge than what was deserved. Various federal and state benefits are available only to veterans who were discharged at an acceptable level. The best discharge is an Honorable discharge, which should enable the veteran to access all benefits. General Discharge Under Honorable Conditions is the second highest level. Other Than Honorable Conditions Discharge is the third level, while a Bad Conduct Discharge is the fourth. Dishonorable is the lowest level of discharge and is reserved for those convicted of serious crimes while in the military. Veterans who receive a Dishonorable Discharge forfeit all benefits, cannot lawfully possess a firearm, and forfeit their right to vote. For more information about types of military discharges, you should refer to this article.1

Fortunately, U.S. federal law allows veterans to request a higher-level discharge through one of two record-correction boards. Within 15 years of discharge, veterans may apply to a Discharge Review Board (DRB) using form DD-293. Importantly, DRBs may not make a discharge worse nor can they overturn a court-martial decision. If a discharge occurred more than 15 years ago, a veteran can apply to the Board for Correction of Military Records (BCMR). Veterans should apply to the BCMR within 3 years of discovering the error or injustice they are asking the board to fix using form DD-149. BCMRs also cannot make a discharge worse or override a court-martial conviction.

Cole Law Group BlogThe marriage is over but the divorce lingers on.  Perhaps you are one who has now reached a high level of frustration because you still can’t get on with your life, because you and your ex-spouse are deadlocked on every issue, and because your divorce is dragging along at a snail’s pace.  Actually, your consternation may be justified.  The prolongation of divorce proceedings is both financially ruinous and emotionally devastating.  And you shouldn’t have to endure it forever. 

In Tennessee the procedure for dissolution of marriage is pretty straightforward.  A no-fault divorce based on irreconcilable differences with no minor children involved has a minimum statutory waiting period of 60 days (90 days if minor children are involved.)  This uncontested divorce process should be completed within one year and consists of four primary steps:  1) File a petition for divorce with the  court, 2) Prepare a Marital Dissolution Agreement, 3) Agree on a Permanent Parenting Plan if minor children are involved, and 4) Schedule a final hearing in court. The procedure for a contested divorce, on the other hand, can take up to two years and beyond to finalize simply because of the filing of motions and counter motions, discovery (interrogatives, fact finding, and depositions), court ordered mediation, or multiple hearings and a backlog of court cases.

And even though a contested divorce by its very acrimonious nature takes longer to resolve, it is wise to be aware of certain mindsets and external influences that can turn a routine process into a never-ending nightmare.  Below are some bumps in the road that can derail a successful, timely divorce resolution.

Military Law Attorney Paul E. Tennison

Military Law Attorney Paul Tennison

You may have heard about Article 15 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice (“UCMJ”). Servicemembers experienced in the realm of military justice may reference Article 15 punishment under numerous terms: punishment by the commander, non-judicial punishment (“NJP”), getting ninja punched, captain’s mast, or admiral’s mast. Essentially an Article 15 proceeding is where a commanding officer determines if a military member has committed a relatively minor infraction of the rules governing military servicemembers. In my Army service I have witnessed Article 15s for many different circumstances, including soldiers being repeatedly late to formation, a soldier being absent without leave (“AWOL”) for a short period of time, a soldier reporting drunk to duty, a soldier involved in a bar fight, a soldier that got a DUI, a soldier breaking curfew, insubordination, and a soldier falling asleep while on guard duty. More serious crimes under the UCMJ will go straight to a court-martial and not be adjudicated under Article 15. Article 15 proceedings are much more common than courts-martial.

The Uniform Code of Military Justice is the law that applies to U.S. military servicemembers.¹ This includes all branches of the uniformed services in the United States: Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, and the Coast Guard. However, the UCMJ does not apply in all circumstances. For example, National Guard and Air Guard Soldiers are only subject to the UCMJ when activated in a federal capacity. Military reserve components, servicemembers, and service academy cadets are governed by the UCMJ. ROTC cadets are exempted from the UCMJ even while on active duty for training.²

What is the Limit of a “Small estate”?

Cole Law Group BlogThe Tennessee Small Estates Act is found in Tennessee Code Annotated § 30-4-101 et seq. Under this statute, “small estate” is defined to mean an estate in which the value of the property does not exceed $50,000. Additionally, as defined in the statute, “property” is limited to personal property owned by the decedent on the date of death, other than personal property held as tenants by the entirety or jointly with the right of survivorship and/or personal property payable to a beneficiary other than the decedent’s estate (e.g. life insurance payable to a designated beneficiary and/or payable on death bank accounts). Please be advised that real property (e.g. a decedent’s residence or other real estate) is not included in the statute’s definition of  “property.”

Benefits of the Tennessee Small Estates Act

Cole Law Group Blog

Attorney Todd Cole in East Germany 1989

I stopped studying the German language in 1987 after making a somewhat embarrassing semantical error.  As my college major required a language competency, I chose to switch to the Scandinavian language of my forebears.  This decision, in turn, led me to schedule my junior year abroad at the University of Copenhagen, Denmark.  As part of that program, I studied Scandinavian government, economics, history and culture.  I was also, as a Danish university student, given the opportunity to travel behind the Iron Curtain and visit the countries of Poland, East Germany, USSR (Russia), Latvia, and Lithuania. 

I entered Poland in October 1989 from the sea.  Denmark and Poland had established a joint ferry service which alternated trips between the countries using Polish and Danish ferries.  As our vessel traversed the Baltic Sea, the weather began to worsen and, as the Poles could not afford stabilization systems on their ferries, the ship began to pitch back and forth, at times rather violently.  To my surprise, this did not detour the majority of the passengers from entering the duty-free shop below deck where they were tossed about while trying to purchase various consumer goods (cigarettes, liquor, cosmetics, etc). 

Cole Law Group BlogThis article addresses why you should draft a Last Will and Testament, the legal requirements for a valid will under Tennessee law, and different provisions to consider when drafting a will. It is commonly said that only two things are certain in life. One of those things is taxes, and you probably already know what the other one is.

No one is required to have a will. A Last Will and Testament is designed to give legal protection to a person’s estate  before that person dies, and the content of a will goes beyond what applies by the default operation of the law. A legitimate will directs the Probate Court as to how a decedent’s estate should be closed according to the wishes of the deceased. Individuals without a will are termed to have died intestate. An intestate estate is distributed in accordance with Tennessee law.1

People have different opinions as to whether or not to draft a will. Those that do draft a will may differ with regard to what provisions should be used and who should receive what dispensations. Some people put lots of thought into giving gifts through a will to relatives, friends, non-profits, schools, parks, or other organizations. Others simply wish to leave all of their possessions to their closest family members.  Creative thought can be put into a will to leave a person’s assets in many different ways after their death.

sofia trefilova-martin cole lawCourt interpreters play an extremely important role in the judicial system. Whether it is a court hearing, a deposition, or simple translation of a court document, a court interpreter acts as a bridge between a non-English speaker and the Court.

In today’s society, the services of a court interpreter are in high demand in the State of Tennessee. According to the Tennessee Administrative Office of the Courts, in the year 2018, there were 16,215 processed court interpreter claims.

I have been a registered Russian Court Interpreter for the State of Tennessee since January 2019. As a child in Russia and for as long as I can remember, I wanted to become an interpreter. I had an interest in studying foreign languages and could see myself  traveling throughout the world while working with various companies as an interpreter. However, the demand for interpreters in Russia had drastically decreased by the time I began my college career. Therefore, I decided to pursue a career in Legal Studies and graduated magna cum laude from Chadron State College in the United States. I subsequently moved to Tennessee and am currently working as a paralegal at Cole Law Group in Brentwood.

NATO's Enhanced Forward Prensence

For those of you who have read Paul’s blogs, worked with him on a case, or wish to retain him as your counsel regarding a military law matter, you may have noticed that he has recently been absent from the office. As noted in his attorney profile on our website, Paul attended the United States Military Academy at West Point and subsequently gained extensive military experience that included challenging training exercises overseas in Korea and Germany. He then received his Juris Doctor from Vanderbilt Law while continuing to serve our country as an officer in the Tennessee Army National Guard. Upon passing the Tennessee Bar, Paul joined Cole Law Group as an associate attorney and pursued his passion to build a military law practice to serve military members as well as veterans.

This summer Paul was called up for active duty by the U.S. Army and deployed to Bemowo Piskie, Poland, where he is currently in command of 105 soldiers in support of NATO’s Enhanced Forward Presence (eFP) Battle Group Poland. The eFP provides a responsive and flexible military capability to respond to any aggressive act as part of NATO’s overall deterrence and defensive posture. 

Battle Group Poland is a multinational battle group, comprised of U.S., U.K., Croatian and Romanian soldiers that will serve alongside the host nation’s 15th Mechanized Brigade as a defense and deterrence force.

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