Beware of Becoming an Unsuspecting Landlord

Sometimes life happens for somebody that you know and you feel that it is the right thing to do to let them stay at your house for a while.  Many times such arrangements work out without any problems.  However, sometimes things go awry and you could suddenly become an unsuspecting and unhappy landlord embroiled in a legal mess.  Therefore, it is important to know how the law works in this area.

In Tennessee, it is possible to create an oral lease or landlord/tenant relationship.  In such a relationship, the tenant has certain rights to access and use the rented premises.  Proper procedures would also have to be followed to terminate the relationship.  In the most extreme circumstances, eviction could be necessary.

This is not to say that one should not let another person stay at their home.  The first thing to ask is how well you know the person.  Is he or she a close friend or family member?  Could he or she be bringing someone into the home that does not need to be around your kids?  If you feel comfortable with the person staying, but you do not know them really well and it is going to be for longer than several weeks or for an indefinite period of time, it would be advisable to get it in writing.  Such a writing would need to define the duration of the arrangement, i.e. for two months or week-to-week, what the person staying with you is going to contribute monetarily, and how much notice is required to terminate the relationship.

My firm represents both landlords and tenants and can advise you on the matters above and assist in “papering” the arrangement if that is necessary.



Where to File for an Order of Protection: What Happens in Vegas, Doesn’t Necessarily Stay in Vegas

Those subjected to or threatened with physical abuse by someone they are related to or are in a relationship with and those who are stalked can apply for and receive an Order of Protection from the proper court.  Such an order prohibits the other person from coming around the applicant and subjects this person to immediate arrest if he or she attempts to make contact.

If you are in an unfortunate situation and need to consider obtaining an Order of Protection, it is important to know in which court to apply.  A court located in the county where the acts occurred and/or a court in the the county where the other party resides can issue the order.  In other words, whether the acts occurred in your home county, Las Vegas, or even the moon for that matter, if the other party resides in the county where the order is sought, a court in that county can issue the Order of Protection.


Bonnarroo Survival Guide

Bonnarroo 2019 is coming up!  It runs from June 13th to 16th.  We hope that everyone has a great time and that no one needs to call us after the festival, but we are here if you need us!  Here are some helpful tips to have a safe trip:

  1. Obey all rules of the road (speed limit, stop signs, traffic lights, etc.).
  2. Make sure all the lights on your car are working (headlights, tail lights, high mount brake light, license plate lights, etc.).
  3. Use your turn signal.
  4. Keep all your prescription medications in their original containers and stored with your luggage, preferably in your trunk.  Do not bring in any illegal drugs.
  5. Do not consume any alcohol and drive.  Police will be looking for impaired drivers.
  6. Do not use your cellphone while driving to either talk or text (get a bluetooth device or headset if your car is not equipped).
  7. Obey all orders of law enforcement officers directing traffic or otherwise.
  8. Respond politely to law enforcement if pulled over and asked to provide your license and registration.
  9. You do NOT have to give consent to a search of your vehicle.
  10. If you are told you were stopped for a traffic violation, politely ask that you be given a ticket and to be on your way.
  11. You may politely decline any other questions that you may be asked by law enforcement.

Attorneys at Matthew J. Crigger PLC Secure Release of Father Jailed for Contempt and Prevent Further Confinement

In the post-divorce contempt proceeding of Hopwood v. Hopwood (No. M2016-01752-COA-R3-CV), the Tennessee Court of Appeals reversed the trial court’s decision to jail the Father until he pad $8,122.43 in obligations to the Mother/Ex-Wife.  Though the court upheld the finding of contempt for failure to satisfy the obligations, the court agreed that the trial court imposed the incorrect remedy and further found that no further confinement was warranted.

Who Is to Say What the Law Is?

Throughout my six semesters of law school I probably read thousands of cases covering a wide-range of legal topics.  However, the first (and second) case assigned to me as reading in a classroom was Marbury v. Madison.  I remember that both my high school American government teacher, Coach Dan Norris, and my college political science professor, Dr. David Brodsky, said that, if I remember one thing from their class, it should be Marbury v. Madison.  Most court opinions decide a dispute between individuals and/or businesses or interpret some law.  Marbury v. Madison went further and defined the roles of our branches of government.  This case established that is was the job of the Supreme Court to decide what the law is.  In other words, it is the Supreme Court’s job to interpret laws passed by Congress to determine if the law is in conflict with the Constitution.  Furthermore, the case found that if a law is in conflict with the Constitution, it cannot stand.  In Marbury v. Madison, the Court found that the part of the Judiciary Act of 1789 which attempted to add to the Constitution’s grant of jurisdiction to the Supreme Court was unlawful.  The issue boiled-down to whether the Supreme Court could issue an order (a writ of mandamus) commanding James Madison, the then secretary of state, to make William Marbury a justice of the peace.  The Supreme Court found that it could not constitutionally issue such an order. What good would a Constitution be if courts could just ignore it?  It is important to note that this power did not become really relevant again until the infamous Dredd Scott case and then not until the Great Depression where the Supreme Court had to review the laws passed by Congress in the wake of the Great Depression.  For that lesson, I must thank Coach Neil Skalitsky.

The Constitution does not address the issue of whose job it is to say what the law is.  Read Article III of our Consitutional from beginning to end.  Judicial review is not a built-in provision.  Nonetheless, in Marbury v. Madison, the Supreme Court found that Congress had attempted to do something that was in conflict with the written Constitution and struck that action down, establishing the doctrine of judicial review.  The Supreme Court thus became a very powerful branch of government and one that could act as a check on the actions of the other branches of government.

Not All the Important Supreme Court Cases Receive All the Media Attention

Those who criticize Justice Antonin Scalia’s jurisprudence, specifically for his dissent in Obergefell v. Hodges, the recent Supreme Court case that legalized same-sex marriage, should take a closer look at his legal philosophy and legal opinions before passing judgment.  Perhaps the most important protection that our Constitution affords us as citizens of the United States is the right to be free from unreasonable searches as seizures.  In two recent opinions authored by Justice Scalia, the Supreme Court found that an individual’s property rights outweighed the government’s interest in an intrusion.

In United States v. Jones (2012), Justice Scalia wrote for the Supreme Court in holding that the police’s placement of a GPS device on an individual’s car without a warrant for the purpose of tracking the vehicle violated the prohibition against unlawful searches a seizures.  In my home county, this case had a profound effect on the prosecution of a aggravated burglary suspect.  In Florida v. Jardines (2013), Justice Scalia wrote for the Supreme Court in holding that the use of a drug-sniffing dog at the front door of a person’s home constituted a search and could not be supported without a warrant.  Justice Scalia quipped regarding the implied permission a person has to approach another’s door and knock or ring the doorbell: “This implicit license typically permits the visitor to approach the home by the front path, knock promptly, wait briefly to be received, and then (absent invitation to linger longer) leave. Complying with the terms of that traditional invitation does not require fine-grained legal knowledge; it is generally managed without incident by the Nation’s Girl Scouts and trick-or-treaters.”

The Importance for Public Office Holders to Respect the Roles of Government Branches

The current dispute in Rowan County Kentucky that centers around the county clerk’s refusal to issue marriage licenses in the wake of the Supreme Court’s ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges that legalized same-sex marriage across all states illustrates the need for public office holders to respect the roles of the various branches of our national, state, and local governments.  In Rowan County Kentucky, no couples (heterosexual or otherwise) have received a marriage license since the Court’s ruling.  The office has thus ceased to function properly.

In the simplest terms, it is the role of the legislative branches of our government to make laws, the role of the judicial branches to decide disputes and to interpret laws under the U.S. and state constitutions where necessary, and the role of the executive branches to execute and enforce the law.  A county clerk’s office is a part of a county’s executive branch of government.  Among other duties, it is tasked with fulfilling various functions under state and local law, such as issuing marriage licenses.  Whether a clerk agrees or disagrees with the Court’s ruling legalizing same-sex marriage is irrelevant to his or her duty to issue marriage licenses under the law.  The U.S. Supreme Court has found that our U.S. Constitution, the supreme law of our land, guarantees the right to marry a person of one’s choosing.  Agree of disagree, the issue has been decided.

To cast the case as a test of how to balance religious expression and protections against discrimination, as the clerk’s attorney is characterized as doing in this Wall Street Journal Article, misses the point.  A person is free to believe and express themselves religiously.  However, for a public office holder to act or refuse to act solely upon those beliefs frustrates the functionality of government.  A court’s decision would mean nothing if a government official,such as a clerk, could pick and choose how to apply it.

The case is on appeal as the clerk appealed a federal district court judge’s decision to require her to issue marriage licenses.  The Supreme Court refused to stay the district judge’s order pending appeal and the plaintiffs are seeking to hold the clerk in contempt for her continued refusal to issue the certificates.