Court Opinions

Format: 08/30/2016
Format: 08/30/2016
James W. Clark, Jr. v. State of Tennessee
W2015-01828-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Alan E. Glenn
Trial Court Judge: Judge James M. Lammey, Jr.

The pro se petitioner, James W. Clark, Jr., appeals the dismissal of his petition for writ of error coram nobis, motion to reopen his post-conviction petition, petition for writ of habeas corpus, and Tennessee Rule of Criminal Procedure 36.1 motion for correction of an illegal sentence. We affirm the summary dismissal of the petitions and motions pursuant to Rule 20, Rules of the Court of Criminal Appeals.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 08/30/16
Cory O'Brien Johnson alias Deshun Marshay Gibbs v. State of Tennessee
W2016-00087-CCA-R3-HC
Authoring Judge: Judge Alan E. Glenn
Trial Court Judge: Judge R. Lee Moore, Jr.

The pro se petitioner, Cory O’Brien Johnson, alias Deshun Marshay Gibbs, appeals the habeas corpus court’s summary dismissal of his petition for writ of habeas corpus, arguing that the court violated his due process rights by not holding an evidentiary hearing to consider whether he was afforded appropriate pretrial jail credits. Following our review, we affirm the summary dismissal of the petition on the basis that the petitioner failed to state a colorable claim for habeas corpus relief.

Lake County Court of Criminal Appeals 08/30/16
Joseph Floyd v. State of Tennessee
W2015-02232-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Alan E. Glenn
Trial Court Judge: Judge Lee V. Coffee

The petitioner, Joseph Floyd, appeals the summary dismissal of his petition for post-conviction relief from his DUI and reckless driving convictions, arguing that the post-conviction court erred in dismissing the petition based on a lack of jurisdiction because his probation had expired. The State concedes that the court erroneously dismissed the petition for lack of jurisdiction, and we agree. Accordingly, we reverse the judgment of the post-conviction court and remand for an evidentiary hearing on the merits of the petition.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 08/30/16
Christine Greenwood v. National Dentex Corporation, et al.
W2015-01889-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Kenny Armstrong
Trial Court Judge: Judge Jerry Stokes

This is a saving statute case, Tennessee Code Annotated Section 28-1-105. The trial court dismissed Appellant’s third product-liability case, which was filed within one year of the dismissal of her second lawsuit, but more than one year after the entry of the initial nonsuit in Appellant’s first lawsuit. Discerning no error, we affirm.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 08/30/16
Peggy L. Smith, Individually and as Trustee of Peggy L. Smith Trust v. Hi-Speed, Inc., et al.
W2015-01613-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Arnold B. Goldin
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Walter L. Evans

This is a breach of contract case related to a commercial property located in Arkansas. Plaintiffs also asserted claims for unjust enrichment, quantum meruit, equitable estoppel, and promissory estoppel. Following a hearing on Defendants‘ motion for partial summary judgment, the trial court dismissed all of the claims except for an alleged breach of contract by Defendant Hi-Speed, Inc. After a bench trial on this remaining claim, the trial court determined that the Plaintiffs were not entitled to any damages. We affirm.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 08/30/16
Beacon4, LLC v. I & L Investments, LLC
E2015-01298-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas R. Frierson, II
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor E.G. Moody
This case involves a contract dispute over the construction of a “Fireworks Over America” retail store in Blountville, Tennessee (“FOA Project”). The defendant company, I & L Investments, LLC (“I & L”), sought to build the store on an 11.71-acre tract of undeveloped property that it had acquired in November 2010. A contracting and development corporation, Altera Development, Inc. (“Altera”), submitted a bid to complete the site work and building construction for the FOA Project.1 At this time, the plaintiff contractor, Beacon4, LLC (“Beacon4”), had been entering into a relationship with Altera in which Altera would market and secure construction work to be performed by Beacon4. Upon I & L’s acceptance of Altera’s bid, Beacon4 eventually became the designated contractor for both the building and site portions of the FOA project, which was divided into two contracts. On January 28, 2011, Beacon4 obtained its Tennessee general contractor’s license with a monetary limit of $1,100,000.00 plus ten percent. On February 7, 2011, I & L and Beacon4 entered into a site contract, valued at $795,486.00, and a building contract, valued at $1,097,115.00. A certificate of occupancy was granted for the FOA store on May 17, 2011. One year later, Beacon4 filed a complaint alleging that I & L had violated the Prompt Pay Act of 1991, see Tenn. Code Ann. §§ 66-34-101 to -602, and breached the parties’ site contract. Beacon4 sought, inter alia, enforcement of a mechanics’ and materialmen’s lien in the amount of $212,856.02 allegedly owed under the site contract. I & L conceded that it had withheld a retainage of $46,942.75 but otherwise asserted affirmative defenses, including, inter alia, that Beacon4 had willfully and grossly exaggerated the lien claim and had violated the Tennessee Contractor’s Licensing Act of 1994, see Tenn. Code Ann. §§ 62-6-101 to 62-6-521, by dividing the Project into two contracts in order to circumvent its monetary licensing limit. I & L also filed a counterclaim, alleging that Beacon4 had violated the Tennessee Consumer Protection Act of 1977, pursuant to Tennessee Code Annotated § 47-18-104(b)(35). Following a five-day bench trial, the trial court dismissed I & L’s counterclaim and entered a judgment in favor of Beacon4, finding that I & L had violated the Prompt Pay Act and breached the parties’ site contract. The court awarded to Beacon4 $150,390.04 plus six-percent interest per annum, reasonable attorney’s fees, and, upon a post-trial motion, out-of-pocket expenses. The court also granted a lien in favor of Beacon4 on the title to I & L’s Blountville FOA store property. I & L has appealed the trial court’s judgment, and Beacon4 has raised an issue regarding the statutory penalty provided in the Prompt Pay Act and has requested attorney’s fees on appeal. Having determined that the trial court made a typographical error in entering the final award of interest to Beacon4, we modify the award of interest from $32,715.76 to $31,715.76. We affirm the judgment in all other respects. Having also determined that an award to Beacon4 of reasonable attorney’s fees on appeal is appropriate under the PPA, we remand for the trial court to determine reasonable attorney’s fees incurred by Beacon4 during the appellate process. 
 
Sullivan County Court of Appeals 08/30/16
In re Adonnias P. et.al.
E2016-01102-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Per Curiam
Trial Court Judge: Judge Timothy E. Irwin

The Notice of Appeal in this termination of parental rights case was filed pro se by the appellant/mother on May 26, 2016. In it, she indicates her desire to appeal from a final judgment entered on May 5, 2015. Because the Notice of Appeal was not timely filed, we lack jurisdiction to consider this appeal.

Knox County Court of Appeals 08/30/16
State of Tennessee v. Ethan Alexander Self - concurring and dissenting
E2014-02466-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert H. Montgomery, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Jon Kerry Blackwood

I dissent from the majority’s conclusion that the trial court did not err in denying the Defendant’s motion for a mistrial after Dr. Brietstein testified that, in his opinion, the shooting was not accidental. As the majority notes, this testimony was elicited by the prosecutor in violation of the court’s earlier ruling which prohibited Dr. Brietstein from testifying to any opinion that the shooting was accidental or intentional.

Hawkins County Court of Criminal Appeals 08/29/16
State of Tennessee v. Ethan Alexander Self
E2014-02466-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge John Everett Williams
Trial Court Judge: Judge Jon Kerry Blackwood

The Defendant, Ethan Alexander Self, was found guilty by a Hawkins County Criminal Court jury of first degree premeditated murder. See T.C.A. § 39-13-202 (2014). He was sentenced to life in prison. On appeal, the Defendant contends that (1) the trial court erred in denying his motion to suppress, (2) the State improperly exercised a peremptory challenge to a prospective juror for a race-based reason, (3) the evidence is insufficient to support the conviction, (4) the court erred in denying the Defendant's motions for a mistrial based upon the State's failure to disclose evidence, (5) the court erred in denying his motions for a mistrial based upon the State's eliciting evidence in violation of the court's pretrial evidentiary rulings, (6) the court erred in denying his motion for a mistrial based upon the State's failure to preserve alarm clocks from the victim's bedroom, (7) the court erred in admitting evidence of the Defendant and the victim's good relationship and lack of abuse, (8) the court erred in the procedure by which the jury inspected the gun used in the victim's homicide, (9) prosecutorial misconduct occurred during the State's rebuttal argument, (10) the court erred in failing to instruct the jury on self-defense, (11) cumulative trial error necessitates a new trial, and (12) the trial court improperly sentenced the Defendant. We conclude that there is no reversible error, and we accordingly affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Hawkins County Court of Criminal Appeals 08/29/16
In Re D.R.S.
E2015-01991-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge Charles D. Susano, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Henry E. Sledge

This is a termination of parental rights case. The Department of Children’s Services filed a petition to terminate the parental rights of J.R.S. (Mother) and J.R.S.1 (Father) with respect to their child, D.R.S. (the Child). The trial court found clear and convincing evidence of four grounds supporting termination of the rights of each parent. The court also found, by the same standard of evidence, that termination is in the best interest of the Child. Mother and Father appeal. We affirm as modified.

Loudon County Court of Appeals 08/29/16
In Re E.S.L.
E2015-01709-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge Charles D. Susano, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Sharon M. Green

This is a termination of parental rights case. M.L. (Mother) and M.O. (Stepfather) filed a petition to terminate the parental rights of L.D.D. (Father) to his child, E.S.L. (the Child). The trial court found clear and convincing evidence of two grounds supporting termination. The court also found, by the same standard of evidence, that termination is in the best interest of the Child. Father appeals. We affirm.

Washington County Court of Appeals 08/29/16
Tadd Timothy Brown v. Dawn Veronica Brown
M2015-01318-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Chief Judge D. Michael Swiney
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Deanna B. Johnson

This appeal arises from a finding of criminal contempt in a child support matter. Dawn Veronica Brown (“Mother”) filed a petition for contempt against her ex-husband Tadd Timothy Brown (“Father”) in the Chancery Court for Williamson County (“the Trial Court”). In her petition, Mother alleged numerous violations by Father of the parenting plan and marital dissolution agreement, including that Father had failed to pay child support toward their minor child (“the Child”). After a trial, the Trial Court found Father guilty on twelve counts of criminal contempt. Father appeals. We find and hold that the evidence is sufficient to sustain Father’s convictions for failure to pay child support. However, we reverse the count found against Father for his refusal to turn the Child over to maternal relatives rather than Mother over one specific summer week, and modify his sentence accordingly. Otherwise, we affirm the judgment of the Trial Court.

Williamson County Court of Appeals 08/26/16
Hardin, Parkes, Kelley & Carter, PLLC v. William Rick Holt
M2015-02010-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Andy D. Bennett
Trial Court Judge: Judge Stella L. Hargrove

A law firm sued a former client for unpaid attorney’s fees. The trial court awarded the firm a judgment. The former client appealed but provided no transcript or statement of the evidence. Consequently, we must affirm the trial court’s judgment.

Maury County Court of Appeals 08/26/16
Save Rural Franklin, et al v. Williamson County Government, et al.
M2014-02568-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge W. Neal McBrayer
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor James G. Martin, III

Organizations representing property owners in close proximity to a proposed subdivision filed a petition for a writ of certiorari, seeking review of the regional planning commission’s approval of the proposed subdivision. The planning commission and parties with an interest in the proposed subdivision filed motions to dismiss. After determining that the petition was untimely and the petitioning organizations lacked standing, the chancery court granted the motions to dismiss. The court also determined that the planning commission had acted legally in approving the subdivision. The petitioning organizations appealed. Following our review, we conclude that the statutory period for filing a petition for writ of certiorari began to run from approval of the preliminary plat for the proposed subdivision. Because the petition was filed more than sixty days after the preliminary plat was approved, the chancery court lacked subject matter jurisdiction to consider the petition. Therefore, we affirm the chancery court’s dismissal of the petition.  

Williamson County Court of Appeals 08/26/16
Daniel Ray Hauf v. Lora Marie Hauf
M2015-00736-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Richard H. Dinkins
Trial Court Judge: Judge William R. Goodman, III

This appeal involves an obligor’s petition to terminate his $1,500 monthly alimony obligation due to his retirement from overseas contractual government employment. The trial court held that a substantial and material change in circumstances occurred when the obligor elected to not renew his employment contract due to a change in his work schedule and reduced the alimony payments to $900 per month. The recipient appeals. We hold that the evidence preponderates against the trial court’s factual findings. Based on our review of the evidence, the obligor failed to demonstrate that a substantial and material change in circumstances had occurred such that a modification of his spousal support obligation was warranted. We reverse the trial court’s decision, reinstate the previous alimony award, and remand for further proceedings.

Montgomery County Court of Appeals 08/26/16
James Daniel Vaughn v. State of Tennessee
W2015-01536-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Alan E. Glenn
Trial Court Judge: Judge Roy B. Morgan, Jr.

The petitioner, James Daniel Vaughn, appeals the denial of his petition for post-conviction relief arguing he received ineffective assistance of counsel. After review, we affirm the denial of the petition.

Henderson County Court of Criminal Appeals 08/26/16
State of Tennessee v. Keith Ward
W2015-00931-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Alan E. Glenn
Trial Court Judge: Judge Paula Skahan

The defendant, Keith Ward, was convicted by a Shelby County Criminal Court jury of rape of a child, a Class A felony, and was sentenced by the trial court as a child rapist to 32.5 years at 100% in the Department of Correction. The sole issue he raises on appeal is whether the evidence is sufficient to sustain his conviction. Following our review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 08/26/16
State of Tennessee v. Anthony Robinson
W2015-02482-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge Thomas T. Woodall
Trial Court Judge: Judge Lee V. Coffee

Defendant, Anthony Robinson, filed a motion under Tennessee Rule of Criminal Procedure 36.1 alleging that he was incorrectly sentenced as a Range II offender when he should have been sentenced as a Range I offender. The trial court summarily dismissed the motion. After review of the record and the briefs, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 08/26/16
Arron Wesley Frazier v. Lee Anne Frazier
E2016-01476-COA-T10B-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Charles D. Susano, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Justin C. Angel

This is an interlocutory appeal as of right, pursuant to Rule 10B of the Rules of the Supreme Court of Tennessee, from the denial of a motion for recusal filed by Lee Anne Frazier (Wife) in the parties' divorce proceedings. Having reviewed the petition for recusal appeal filed by Wife, as well as the answer in opposition filed by Arron Wesley Frazier (Husband), we conclude that the Trial Court should have granted the motion because the unique circumstances of this case create an appearance of bias on the part of the Trial Court Judge that required his recusal. We therefore reverse the order of the Trial Court and remand the case for reassignment to a different judge.

Rhea County Court of Appeals 08/26/16
Suntrust Bank v. Angela Christina Best a/k/a Christina Best
E2015-02122-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Michael Swiney
Trial Court Judge: Judge Kristi M. Davis

Angela Christina Best (“Best”) appeals the decision of the Circuit Court for Knox County (“the Trial Court”) granting summary judgment to SunTrust Bank (“SunTrust”) and awarding SunTrust a judgment against Best in the amount of $379.60 plus post-judgment interest and attorney fees. Best raises issues regarding whether the Trial Court erred in exercising jurisdiction after finding that the contract at issue in this case contained an arbitration clause, whether the Trial Court erred in granting summary judgment both on SunTrust’s complaint and on Best’s counterclaim, and whether the Trial Court erred in granting SunTrust’s attorney’s fees allegedly in excess of those allowed under the contract. We find and hold that the arbitration clause in the contract never was triggered, that SunTrust made a properly supported motion for summary judgment, that Best failed to show any genuine disputed issues of material fact, and that SunTrust was entitled to summary judgment both on the complaint and on Best’s counterclaim. We further find and hold that the attorney’s fees awarded were in excess of those allowed under the contract. We, therefore, affirm the grant of summary judgment and modify the award of attorney’s fees to comply with the contract.

Knox County Court of Appeals 08/26/16
In Re Lillian D.
E2016-00111-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas R. Frierson, II
Trial Court Judge: Judge Timothy E. Irwin

This is a termination of parental rights case involving a two-year-old child, Lillian D. (“the Child”). On October 7, 2013, the Knox County Juvenile Court granted temporary legal custody of the Child to the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services (“DCS”). The Child was immediately placed in foster care, where she has remained since that date. DCS subsequently filed a petition to terminate the parental rights of the Child’s biological mother, Penelope D. (“Mother”), in the Knox County Juvenile Court on January 26, 2015.1 Following a bench trial, the trial court terminated Mother’s parental rights to the Child after determining by clear and convincing evidence that Mother was mentally incompetent to care for the Child and that the conditions that led to the removal of the Child from Mother’s custody still persisted. The trial court further found by clear and convincing evidence that terminating Mother’s parental rights was in the best interest of the Child. Mother has appealed. Discerning no error, we affirm.

Knox County Court of Appeals 08/26/16
State of Tennessee v. Douglas Curtis
M2015-01372-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge John Everett Williams
Trial Court Judge: Judge James G. Martin, III

The defendant, Douglas Curtis, was convicted of four counts of rape of a child, a Class A felony.  On appeal, he contends that the evidence is insufficient to support his convictions and that a portion of the victim’s testimony violated his right to a fair trial.  Following our review, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Lewis County Court of Criminal Appeals 08/26/16
Thomas E. Williams v. Debra Johnson, Warden
M2015-02244-CCA-R3-HC
Authoring Judge: Judge James Curwood Witt, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Deanna Johnson

The petitioner, Thomas E. Williams, appeals the summary dismissal of his petition for writ of habeas corpus, which petition challenged his 1989 conviction of escape.  Discerning no error, we affirm.

Hickman County Court of Criminal Appeals 08/26/16
David G. Skipper v. State of Tennessee
M2015-01518-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Norma McGee Ogle
Trial Court Judge: Judge Gary McKenzie

The Petitioner, David G. Skipper, appeals the Putnam County Criminal Court’s dismissal of his second petition for post-conviction relief from his guilty pleas to two counts of rape of a child and one count of attempted aggravated sexual battery and resulting effective sentence of thirty-one years.  On appeal, the Petitioner contends that the post-conviction court erred by not treating his petition for post-conviction relief as a petition for writ of error coram nobis.  Based upon the record and the parties’ briefs, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Putnam County Court of Criminal Appeals 08/26/16
State of Tennessee v. James Ray Bartlett
M2016-00217-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge James Curwood Witt, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Forest A. Durand, Jr.

The defendant, James Ray Bartlett, appeals the dismissal of his motion, filed pursuant to Tennessee Rule of Criminal Procedure 36.1, to correct what he believes to be an illegal sentence. In this appeal, the defendant asserts that the trial court erred by denying his motion on the grounds that his sentence had expired.  Because Rule 36.1 cannot avail the defendant of meaningful relief, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Lincoln County Court of Criminal Appeals 08/26/16