Court Opinions

Format: 02/20/2018
Format: 02/20/2018
James Allen v. State of Tennessee
E2017-01043-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge James Curwood Witt, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Lisa Rice

The petitioner, James Allen, appeals the denial of post-conviction relief from his 2013 Washington County Criminal Court jury convictions of first degree murder and possession of a firearm with intent to employ it during the commission of first degree murder, for which he received a life sentence. In this appeal, the petitioner contends only that he was denied the effective assistance of counsel at trial. Discerning no error, we affirm.

Washington County Court of Criminal Appeals 02/20/18
James Harrison v General Motors, LLC, Et Al.
M2016-02522-SC-R3-WC
Authoring Judge: Senior Judge Don R. Ash
Trial Court Judge: Judge Dale A. Tipps

James Harrison sustained a compensable injury to his right shoulder while employed by General Motors, LLC (“GM”). He filed a workers’ compensation claim contending he was permanently and totally disabled as a result of the injury. The Court of Workers’ Compensation Claims found he was not permanently and totally disabled and awarded permanent partial disability benefits in accordance with the statutory scheme. Tenn. Code Ann. § 50-6-207(3)(A) & (B) (2014 & 2017 Supp.) Mr. Harrison appeals contending the evidence preponderates against the finding he is not totally disabled. The appeal has been referred to the Special Workers’ Compensation Appeals Panel for a hearing and a report of findings of fact and conclusions of law pursuant to Tennessee Supreme Court Rule 51. We affirm.

Workers Compensation Panel 02/20/18
State of Tennessee v. Christopher M. Mullins
E2017-01087-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge James Curwood Witt, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge R. Jerry Beck

The defendant, Christopher M. Mullins, appeals the revocation of the six-year probationary sentence imposed for his 2013 conviction of manufacturing .5 grams or more of methamphetamine, arguing that the trial court erred by ordering that he serve the balance of his sentence in confinement. Discerning no error, we affirm.

Sullivan County Court of Criminal Appeals 02/20/18
State of Tennessee v. Terry Sanders
M2017-00905-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert L. Holloway, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Larry J. Wallace

Terry Sanders, the Movant, filed a “Motion to Correct Illegal Sentence” pursuant Rule 36.1 of the Tennessee Rules of Criminal Procedure claiming that his sentence was illegal because the State failed to comply with the ten-day notice requirement of intent to seek enhanced punishment, the State intentionally filed an improper notice to interfere with the Movant’s due process rights, and the trial court erred in calculating his prior felony convictions and sentencing him as a career offender. The trial court found that the Movant failed to state a colorable claim and summarily dismissed the motion. We affirm.

Houston County Court of Criminal Appeals 02/20/18
Steven Santore, et al. v. Karloss Stevenson, et al.
W2017-01098-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge Frank G. Clement, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Robert L. Childers

At issue in this personal injury action is whether the trial court erred by striking the defendant’s affirmative defense that an unknown “John Doe” driver of an Averitt Express truck was comparatively at fault for the plaintiff’s injuries. Relying on Brown v. Wal- Mart Discount Cities, 12 S.W.3d 785 (Tenn. 2000) and Tenn. Code Ann. § 20-1-119, the trial court struck the affirmative defense as to John Doe and Averitt Express upon the finding that the defendant failed to sufficiently identify John Doe so that the plaintiff may serve process on John Doe. We have determined the trial court’s discretionary decision to strike the affirmative defense of comparative fault as to John Doe and Averitt Express was premature because the defendant was not afforded a reasonable opportunity to engage in pre-trial discovery to endeavor as to the identity of John Doe in sufficient detail for the plaintiff to serve process on John Doe. Therefore, we reverse and remand for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 02/20/18
State of Tennessee v. Timothy Mark Hartsfield
M2016-01959-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert W. Wedemeyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge J. Russell Parkes

In 2016, the Defendant, Timothy Mark Hartsfield, entered a best interest plea to possession of methamphetamine, possession of synthetic marijuana, and unlawful possession of a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony. The Defendant reserved a certified question of law pursuant to Tennessee Rule of Criminal Procedure 37(b)(2) as to whether the search of the Defendant’s residence was valid based on statements made by the investigating officer in the search warrant application. The trial court sentenced the Defendant to ten years of incarceration. After a thorough review of the record and relevant authorities, we affirm the trial court’s judgment.

Lawrence County Court of Criminal Appeals 02/20/18
State of Tennessee v. Benjamin Tate Brown
M2017-01150-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert L. Holloway, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge David M. Bragg

The Defendant, Benjamin Tate Brown, was indicted for driving under the influence (DUI), driving while his blood alcohol concentration was .08% or more (DUI per se); and DUI, second offense. Following a bench trial, the Defendant was found guilty of DUI, second offense, and the remaining charges were dismissed. On appeal, the Defendant contends that the trial court erred in not suppressing the evidence because the officer lacked probable cause to stop his vehicle and in finding the offense was a second offense because his convictions were more than ten years apart. Following our review, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Rutherford County Court of Criminal Appeals 02/20/18
State of Tennessee v. Antwuan Matias Gordon
M2017-01306-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Timothy L. Easter
Trial Court Judge: Judge Forest A. Durard, Jr.

Defendant, Antwuan Matias Gordon, entered an open guilty plea to one count of driving a motor vehicle after having been declared a habitual motor vehicle offender, in violation of Tennessee Code Annotated section 55-10-616. The trial court sentenced Defendant to serve four years in incarceration. On appeal, Defendant argues that the trial court erred by denying an alternative sentence. After a review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Marshall County Court of Criminal Appeals 02/20/18
Deborah Evans Wilhoit v. Gary Dennis Wilhoit
M2017-00740-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Kenny Armstrong
Trial Court Judge: Judge Joe Thompson

This is a post-divorce modification of alimony case. Appellant/Husband contends that the trial court erred by not terminating his alimony in futuro and life insurance obligations. We conclude that Husband’s alimony obligation should be modified to $500 per month so that the parties can retain enough assets to continue to support themselves for a longer duration. Affirmed as modified.

Sumner County Court of Appeals 02/16/18
George Metz, Et Al. v. Metropolitan Government of Nashville And Davidson County, TN, Et Al.
M2017-00719-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge Frank G. Clement, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Ellen Hobbs Lyle

This appeal arises from the dismissal of a petition for writ of certiorari to challenge two administrative decisions by the Planning Commission of the Metropolitan Government of Nashville, Davidson County, Tennessee. The petition was dismissed pursuant to a Tenn. R. Civ. P. 12.02(1) motion for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. The challenge to the first decision was dismissed because the statutory sixty-day period had run from the date the minutes approving the challenged decision had been entered. The challenge to the second decision, the Planning Commission’s decision to approve the final site plan, was deemed untimely because the challenge to a site plan must be filed within sixty days of the entry of the minutes approving the master development plan, not the final site plan, and the statutory period had run. Finding no error, we affirm.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 02/16/18
Travis Daniel Woolbright v. Lee Anna Woolbright
M2016-02420-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Andy D. Bennett
Trial Court Judge: Judge Amy V. Hollars

In this appeal, a father challenges the trial court’s award of equal parenting time to the child’s mother. The father contends that he should be awarded more parenting time because the majority of the statutory best interest factors weigh in his favor and he provides the child more stability. We have reviewed the record and find that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in awarding equal parenting time to the parties. 

Putnam County Court of Appeals 02/16/18
Board of Professional Responsibility of The Supreme Court of Tennessee v. Robin K. Barry
M2016-02003-SC-R3-BP
Authoring Judge: Justice Holly Kirby
Trial Court Judge: Senior Judge Ben H. Cantrell

This is an appeal from attorney disciplinary proceedings based on the attorney’s knowing conversion of client funds. In this case, disputed insurance funds were placed in the attorney’s trust account pending resolution of the dispute. Shortly after the disputed insurance funds were deposited, the attorney began to comingle funds in her trust account and use the insurance proceeds for her own purposes. At about the time the dispute over the insurance funds was resolved, the attorney moved out of state. In response to her client’s repeated inquiries about disbursement of the client’s share of the funds, the attorney stalled, made misrepresentations, and finally stopped communicating with the client altogether. After the client filed a complaint with the Tennessee Board of Professional Responsibility against the attorney, the hearing panel found violations of RPC 1.4, RPC 1.15(a) and (d) and RPC 8.4, which included the knowing conversion of client funds and the failure to communicate. The hearing panel found five aggravating circumstances and no mitigating circumstances. It suspended the attorney’s Tennessee law license for eighteen months, two months of which were to be served on active suspension. After the Board appealed, the chancery court held that the hearing panel’s decision was arbitrary and capricious and that disbarment was the only appropriate sanction. The attorney now appeals to this Court, arguing that disbarment is not warranted. In the alternative, the attorney argues that the disbarment should be made retroactive to the date of her original temporary suspension. Under the circumstances of this case, we affirm the chancery court and disbar the attorney from the practice of law in Tennessee, and we decline to make the disbarment retroactive.

Davidson County Supreme Court 02/16/18
Sean K. Hornbeck v. Board of Professional Responsibility Of The Supreme Court of Tennessee
M2016-01793-SC-R3-BP
Authoring Judge: Justice Holly Kirby
Trial Court Judge: Special Judge Ben H. Cantell

In this attorney disciplinary appeal, upon petition by the Tennessee Board of Professional Responsibility, this Court ordered the temporary suspension of the attorney from the practice of law based on the threat of substantial harm he posed to the public. For a time, the attorney was placed on disability status; later he was reinstated to suspended status. Subsequently, after an evidentiary hearing, a hearing panel found multiple acts of professional misconduct, including knowing conversion of client funds with substantial injury to clients, submitting false testimony and falsified documents in court proceedings, engaging in the unauthorized practice of law, violating Supreme Court orders, and defrauding clients. The hearing panel determined that the attorney should be disbarred. On appeal to the chancery court, the attorney argued inter alia that the disbarment should be made retroactive to the date of his temporary suspension. The chancery court affirmed the decision of the hearing panel. On appeal to this Court, the attorney does not question the disbarment but argues that it would be arbitrary and capricious not to make his disbarment retroactive to the date of his temporary suspension, in order to advance the date on which he may apply for reinstatement of his law license. We disagree. In contrast to suspension, which contemplates that the lawyer will return to law practice, disbarment is not a temporary status. Disbarment is a termination of the individual’s license to practice law in Tennessee. Therefore, we decline to make the effective date of the attorney’s disbarment retroactive to the date of his temporary suspension. Accordingly, we affirm.

Davidson County Supreme Court 02/16/18
State of Tennessee v. Roger Terry Johnson
M2017-01249-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Steve R. Dozier
Trial Court Judge: Judge Timothy L. Easter

Defendant, Roger Terry Johnson, is appealing the trial court’s denial of his motion to correct an illegal sentence filed pursuant to Tennessee Rule of Criminal Procedure 36.1 The State has filed a motion asking this Court to affirm pursuant to Court of Criminal Appeals Rule 20. Said motion is hereby granted.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 02/16/18
State of Tennessee v. Howard Melton
E2017-00613-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge James Curwood Witt, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Bob R, McGee

The defendant, Howard Melton, appeals his Knox County Criminal Court jury conviction of sexual exploitation of a minor, claiming that the trial court erred by improperly admitting certain evidence and that the evidence was insufficient to support his conviction. Discerning no error, we affirm.

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 02/16/18
State of Tennessee v. Mena Mekhaen Boutrous
M2017-00835-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Timothy L. Easter
Trial Court Judge: Judge Monte Watkins

Defendant, Mena Mekhaen Boutrous, was convicted of two counts of aggravated arson and one count of attempted first degree murder after a bench trial. The trial court merged the two counts of aggravated arson and sentenced Defendant to twenty years for the conviction for aggravated arson and twenty years for the conviction for attempted first degree murder, to be served concurrently. On appeal, Defendant argues that: (1) the trial court erred by excluding evidence of Defendant’s mental health; (2) the evidence was insufficient to support the convictions; and (3) the sentences were excessive. After a review, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 02/16/18
State of Tennessee v. Duran Maszae Lee
E2017-00368-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert H. Montgomery, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Donald R. Elledge

The Defendant, Duran Maszae Lee, was convicted by an Anderson County Criminal Court jury of possession with the intent to sell or to deliver more than 0.5 gram of cocaine, a Class B felony. See T.C.A. § 39-17-417(a)(4) (2010) (amended 2012, 2014). The trial court sentenced the Defendant as a Range II, multiple offender to sixteen years’ confinement. On appeal, the Defendant contends that (1) the evidence is insufficient to support his conviction, (2) that the indictment is duplicitous, and (3) the trial court erred by failing to exclude his pretrial statements to the police. We affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Anderson County Court of Criminal Appeals 02/16/18
State of Tennessee v. Matthew George Vogel
E2017-00894-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert H. Montgomery, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Tom Greenholtz

The Defendant, Matthew George Vogel, appeals from the Hamilton County Criminal Court’s revocation of probation for his Range I, eight-year sentence for possession with the intent to sell methamphetamine, a Class B felony. See T.C.A. § 39-17-417 (2014). The Defendant contends that the trial court erred in revoking his probation and ordering him to serve the remainder of his sentence in confinement. We affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Hamilton County Court of Criminal Appeals 02/16/18
Darrell M. Anderson v. State of Tennessee
W2017-00922-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge J. Ross Dyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Roy B. Morgan, Jr.

The petitioner, Darrell M. Anderson, appeals the denial of his post-conviction petition, arguing the post-conviction court erred in finding he received effective assistance of counsel at trial. After our review of the record, briefs, and applicable law, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Madison County Court of Criminal Appeals 02/15/18
Rodney Smith v. State of Tennessee
W2017-00406-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge J. Ross Dyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge James M. Lammey

The petitioner, Rodney Smith, appeals the denial of post-conviction relief from his Shelby County Criminal Court convictions for attempted especially aggravated robbery, aggravated burglary, employment of a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony, convicted felon in possession of a handgun, and convicted felon in possession of a firearm. On appeal, the petitioner alleges he received ineffective assistance of counsel due to trial counsel’s failure to call a material witness at trial. Discerning no error, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 02/15/18
State of Tennessee v. Brandon Cole-Pugh
W2017-00469-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge J. Ross Dyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Donald H. Allen

Following a jury trial, the defendant, Brandon Cole-Pugh, was convicted of being a felon in possession of a handgun and sentenced to eight years. On appeal, the defendant challenges the trial court’s denial of his request for an instruction on the defense of necessity. Having thoroughly reviewed the record, we conclude the trial court did not err in denying the defendant’s request on the defense of necessity.

Madison County Court of Criminal Appeals 02/15/18
Tristar Centennial Medical Center v. Dana C. Pugh
M2016-02470-SC-R3-WC
Authoring Judge: Judge Hamilton V. Gayden, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Chief Justice Jeffrey S. Bivins

Dana Pugh (“Employee”) and Tristar Centennial Medical Center (“Employer’) settled a claim for a compensable back injury to Employee after participating in and failing to resolve their dispute at a Benefit Review Conference (“BRC”). Employee later filed a motion to compel Employer to approve a surgical procedure recommended by her authorized physician and for attorney’s fees. Employer approved the surgery after another physician conducted a review of Employee’s medical records. Employee subsequently reset her motion, and the trial court awarded her attorney’s fees. Employer has appealed. The appeal has been referred to the Special Workers’ Compensation Appeals Panel for a hearing and a report of findings of fact and conclusions of law pursuant to Tennessee Supreme Court Rule 51. We conclude that the trial court did not have subject matter jurisdiction, vacate the judgment, and dismiss the case.

Davidson County Workers Compensation Panel 02/15/18
State of Tennessee v. Ernest Butler aka Antonio Butler
W2017-00136-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Alan E. Glenn
Trial Court Judge: Judge Lee V. Coffee

The Defendant, Ernest Butler, aka Antonio Butler, was convicted of first degree felony murder and being a convicted felon in possession of a firearm. He was sentenced to life imprisonment and fifteen years, respectively, to be served consecutively. On appeal, he argues that the evidence is insufficient to sustain the murder conviction. We disagree and affirm the judgments.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 02/15/18
State of Tennessee v. Deredious Otis, Brashard Gibbs and Carlos Key
W2016-01261-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Alan E. Glenn
Trial Court Judge: Judge James M. Lammey

Defendants Deredious Otis and Carlos Key each were convicted of one count of first degree premeditated murder and two counts of attempted first degree murder, and Defendant Brashard Gibbs was convicted of one count of first degree premeditated murder, five counts of attempted first degree murder, and three counts of employing a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony. Defendants Otis and Key each were sentenced to life for their first degree murder conviction and twenty-five years for each of their attempted first degree murder convictions, with all sentences to be served consecutively. Defendant Gibbs was sentenced to life for the first degree murder conviction, twenty-five years for each of the five counts of attempted first degree murder, and six years for each of the three counts of employing a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony, with all sentences to be served consecutively. On appeal, all three Defendants argue that the evidence is insufficient to support the verdicts and that the trial court erred in consolidating the indictments; and Defendants Otis and Gibbs argue that the court erred in sentencing. Following our review, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 02/15/18
Bank of New York Mellon v. Chandra Berry
W2017-01213-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Andy D. Bennett
Trial Court Judge: Judge Mary L. Wagner

A bank filed a wrongful detainer warrant in general sessions court against a homeowner who defaulted on her loan, and the homeowner raised counterclaims that the foreclosure was wrongful and fraudulent. The general sessions court awarded the bank possession of the property and dismissed the homeowner’s counterclaims as barred by res judicata based on an earlier action in which the homeowner sought to prevent the foreclosure. The homeowner appealed the general sessions court’s decision, and the circuit court also dismissed the homeowner’s counterclaims based on res judicata. The homeowner appealed the circuit court’s judgment to this court, and the bank sought an award of its attorney’s fees as damages for having to defend against a frivolous appeal. We affirm the circuit court’s judgment and deny the bank’s request for an award of its fees.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 02/15/18