Court Opinions

Format: 03/27/2017
Format: 03/27/2017
Dialysis Clinic, Inc. v. Kevin Medley, et al
M2017-00269-COA-T10B-CV
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge J. Steven Stafford
Trial Court Judge: Judge Joseph P. Binkley, Jr.

Appellants appeal the trial court’s denial of their motion to recuse on the ground that the trial court conducted an impermissible ex parte communication with counsel for the opposing party. The dispute in this case stems from Appellants’ pursuit of several documents that the opposing party claimed were privileged. In the course of hearing proof on the claimed privilege, the trial court announced its intention to conduct an ex parte hearing concerning the documents with only the opposing party present. Appellants did not object to the hearing. After the hearing was conducted, however, Appellants moved to recuse the trial judge on the basis that he had engaged in prohibited ex parte communications. The trial court promptly denied the recusal motion. Discerning no error, we affirm. 

Davidson County Court of Appeals 03/27/17
State of Tennessee v. Tyrone Batts
M2015-01662-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Norma McGee Ogle
Trial Court Judge: Judge J. Randall Wyatt, Jr.

A Davidson County Criminal Court Jury convicted the Appellant, Tyrone Batts, of two counts of rape, a Class B felony; one count of attempted rape, a Class C felony; and one count of robbery, a Class C felony.  After a sentencing hearing, the Appellant received an effective thirty-six-year sentence.  On appeal, the Appellant contends that the evidence is insufficient to support his robbery conviction, that the trial court erred by allowing a nurse practitioner to testify about statements made by the victim, that the trial court erred by allowing the prosecutor to make improper comments during the State’s closing arguments, that his separate convictions for rape and attempted rape violate due process and double jeopardy, and that the trial court erred by imposing the maximum punishment in the range for each offense and consecutive sentencing.  Based upon the record and the parties’ briefs, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 03/27/17
State of Tennessee v. Mitchell Blake Puckett
M2015-01938-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Norma McGee Ogle
Trial Court Judge: Judge Larry Wallace

A Cheatham County Circuit Court Jury convicted the Appellant, Mitchell Blake Puckett, of attempted first degree premeditated murder, a Class A felony, for which he received a sixteen-year sentence.  On appeal, the Appellant challenges the sufficiency of the evidence sustaining his conviction.  He concedes that the evidence established he committed attempted second degree murder but maintains that the State failed to adduce proof of premeditation to sustain a conviction of first degree murder.  Upon review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Cheatham County Court of Criminal Appeals 03/27/17
In Re Proceeding To Enforce Judgment Against National Partitions, Inc.
E2016-00339-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Charles D. Susano, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Michael W. Moyers

American Plastics Technologies, Inc. (APT) and RAO Design, International, Inc. (RDI) (collectively the Plaintiffs) brought this action in the trial court seeking to enroll an Illinois judgment against National Partitions (NP). The judgment had been awarded by the Circuit Court of Cook County, Illinois. NP filed an answer questioning the jurisdiction of the Illinois court. NP coupled its answer with a counterclaim asserting that the Plaintiffs had been guilty of the initial breach of the contract. Following a hearing, the trial court decreed registration of the Illinois judgment and ultimately dismissed NP‘s counterclaim. NP appeals. We affirm

Knox County Court of Appeals 03/27/17
Bobby Murray, et al. v. Dennis Miracle, et al.
E2015-00766-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Richard H. Dinkins
Trial Court Judge: Judge Frank V. Williams, III

This is the third appeal in this suit; on remand from the prior appeal the court considered whether a discovery sanction previously imposed upon Plaintiffs was reasonable and the amount of damages to be awarded Defendants for defending the previous appeal, which was deemed frivolous. The trial court upheld the discovery sanction and awarded Defendants $8,488.50 in damages for the prior appeal. Plaintiffs appeal, contending that the trial court abused its discretion in affirming the prior sanction and in making the award for the frivolous appeal. Discerning no error, we affirm the trial court; we declare this appeal frivolous and remand the case for a determination of damages.

Roane County Court of Appeals 03/27/17
Ryan James Howard v. State of Tennessee
E2015-02186-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas T. Woodall
Trial Court Judge: Judge Stacy L. Street

Petitioner, Ryan James Howard, appeals from the post-conviction court's dismissal of Petitioner's post-conviction petition following an evidentiary hearing. Petitioner asserts that he is entitled to relief because he received ineffective assistance of counsel in the proceedings leading to his convictions for one count of second degree murder and one count of voluntary manslaughter. After a thorough review, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Washington County Court of Criminal Appeals 03/24/17
Ronnie Lamont Harshaw v. State of Tennessee
E2015-00900-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Norma McGee Ogle
Trial Court Judge: Judge Bob R. McGee

The Petitioner, Ronnie Lamont Harshaw, pled guilty to two counts of attempted first degree murder, Class A felonies; three counts of aggravated assault, Class B felonies; reckless endangerment by firing into an occupied habitation, a Class C felony; two counts of being a convicted felon in possession of a firearm, Class D felonies; and two counts of employing a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony, Class C felonies. He received an effective sentence of thirty-six years. The Petitioner filed a petition for post-conviction relief, alleging that his trial counsel was ineffective and that his guilty pleas were not knowingly and voluntarily entered. The post-conviction court denied the petition, and the Petitioner appeals. On appeal, the Petitioner also argues that the criminal gang enhancement statute, which was applied to increase his aggravated assault convictions from Class C felonies to Class B felonies, is unconstitutional. Upon review, we conclude that pursuant to State v. Bonds, 502 S.W.3d 118 (Tenn. Crim. App. 2016), the criminal gang enhancement statute is unconstitutional; therefore, we must reverse the judgments for the aggravated assault convictions in counts three, four, and five in case number 100379; vacate the criminal gang enhancements in those convictions; and remand for entry of judgments reflecting that each aggravated assault conviction is a Class C felony with a sentence of fifteen years. The Petitioner's total effective sentence remains the same. The judgments of conviction are affirmed in all other respects.

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 03/24/17
Ronald Cauthern v. State of Tennessee
W2015-01905-CCA-R3-ECN
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert L. Holloway, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Senior Judge Don R. Ash

Ronald Cauthern (“the Petitioner”) filed a petition for writ of error coram nobis in the Gibson County Circuit Court, alleging that he was entitled to a new trial based on newly discovered evidence. The coram nobis court summarily denied the petition after concluding that the petition was untimely. The Petitioner now appeals the denial of coram nobis relief. Upon review, we affirm the coram nobis court’s determination that the Petitioner’s claim regarding an unedited videotape is time-barred. However, we reverse the judgment of the coram nobis court as to the Petitioner’s claim regarding lab bench notes and remand for the coram nobis court to determine whether the Petitioner is entitled to due process tolling on this claim.

Gibson County Court of Criminal Appeals 03/24/17
State of Tennessee v. Larry Prewitt
W2016-01516-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert L. Holloway, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge J. Robert Carter, Jr.

In September 2009, Larry Prewitt (“the Petitioner”) pled guilty to two counts of aggravated burglary and was sentenced to three years in the workhouse with release eligibility after service of thirty percent of the sentence. On May 18, 2016, the Petitioner filed a “Motion to Challenge the Criminal Court Jurisdiction,” arguing that the judgments were void, his guilty plea was unknowing and involuntary, and the indictments were fatally defective, which the trial court denied. After a thorough review of the record and applicable case law, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 03/24/17
State of Tennessee v. Anthony J. Bookout, Sr.
W2016-01694-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert L. Holloway, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Roy B. Morgan, Jr.

In April 2016, the Madison County Grand Jury indicted the Defendant, Anthony J. Bookout, Sr., on charges of driving under the influence (DUI), driving while his alcohol concentration was .08% or more (DUI per se), DUI second offense, leaving the scene of an accident, and evading arrest. Following a trial, a jury convicted the Defendant of DUI, DUI per se, DUI second offense, and leaving the scene of an accident involving injuries, for which the Defendant received an effective sentence of eleven months and twenty-nine days suspended to supervised probation following the service of ninety days in jail. On appeal, the Defendant contends that the evidence presented at trial was insufficient to support his convictions. Following our review, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Madison County Court of Criminal Appeals 03/24/17
In Re Lukis B.
M2016-00357-COA-R3-JV
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge Frank G. Clement, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge David L. Allen
The father appeals the circuit court’s adjudication that his child is dependent and neglected due to the father’s mental illness and paranoid behavior, which make the father unfit to properly care for his child. The father contends the circuit court erred in determining that, at the time of trial, his child was dependent and neglected. Finding the evidence clearly and convincingly supports the circuit court’s ruling, we affirm.
 
Maury County Court of Appeals 03/24/17
Mrs. Bobby Patterson v. State of Tennessee
M2016-01498-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Arnold B. Goldin
Trial Court Judge: Commissioner Robert N. Hibbett
The Appellant appeals the dismissal of a complaint filed in the Tennessee Claims Commission. Because the record does not support the Claims Commission’s grounds for dismissing the case, we reverse and remand for further proceedings consistent with this Opinion.
 
Court of Appeals 03/24/17
James R. Goan et al. v. Billy B. Mills
E2016-01206-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Charles D. Susano, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Alex E. Pearson

Plaintiff James R. Goan’s mail delivery vehicle was rear-ended by a vehicle driven by Billy B. Mills as Plaintiff was delivering mail. The Plaintiff and his wife, Judy Goan, sued Mills. During settlement negotiations, Plaintiffs offered to settle for $100,000, the limits of Defendant’s insurance policy. Defendant accepted the offer on December 4, 2013. Over a year later, Defendant filed a motion to enforce the settlement agreement. The Plaintiffs opposed the motion, arguing that there had been no meeting of the minds and no enforceable agreement. The trial court enforced the settlement agreement. The Plaintiffs appeal. We affirm.

Hawkins County Court of Appeals 03/24/17
State of Tennessee v. James Allen Ballew
M2016-00051-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Alan E. Glenn
Trial Court Judge: Judge David A. Patterson

In this second appeal of the amount of restitution ordered in a Class E felony theft case, the defendant, James Allen Ballew, appeals the $36,473.00 at the rate of $50 per month that the trial court ordered he pay to the victim lumber company, arguing that the amount is unreasonable given the evidence of the victim’s losses presented at the second restitution hearing, the two-year length of his sentence, and his financial resources and future ability to pay.  The State concedes that the trial court erred by imposing an amount of restitution that the defendant could not reasonably be expected to pay and by ordering a payment schedule that exceeds the length of the sentence.  Following our review, we reverse the judgment of the trial court with respect to restitution and remand for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

White County Court of Criminal Appeals 03/24/17
In Re Charles A.
E2016-01757-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge Arnold B. Goldin, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Lawrence Howard Puckett

This is a termination of parental rights case. Mother appeals the termination of her parental rights to the minor child on the grounds of abandonment and persistence of conditions. Because the record does not contain an adjudicatory order of dependency and neglect, we reverse the ground of persistence of conditions. We affirm the termination of Mother’s parental rights on the ground of abandonment and on the trial court’s finding that termination of Mother’s parental rights is in the child’s best interest. Reversed in part, affirmed in part, and remanded.

McMinn County Court of Appeals 03/24/17
Reginald Dion Hughes v. Tennessee Board of Probation and Parole (Dissent)
M2015-00722-SC-R11-CV
Authoring Judge: Justice Cornelia A. Clark
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Ellen H. Lyle

We granted permission to appeal believing this case presented us with an opportunity to address the constitutionality of Tennessee Code Annotated section 41-21-812 (2014)—an issue that merits our attention given a 2014 decision of the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit holding the statute unconstitutional as applied in certain circumstances.  See Clifton v. Carpenter, 775 F.3d 760, 767-68 (6th Cir. 2014) (holding the statute unconstitutional when applied to bar a petitioner whose parole had been revoked from appealing the parole board’s decision because he owed $1,449.15 in court costs from prior cases).  Having now reviewed the record on appeal and the relevant statutory provisions, I am convinced that the statute does not apply to authorize dismissal of Mr. Hughes’s appeal.  As a result, I have concluded, like Justice Lee, that it is unnecessary to address the constitutionality of this statute in this appeal.  See West v. Schofield, 468 S.W.3d 482, 493–94 (Tenn. 2015)(“[C]ourts decide constitutional issues only when necessary.”).  Therefore, while I do not disagree with the majority’s discussion of the relevant constitutional principles or take issue with the outcome the majority reaches on the constitutionality of the statute, I am unable to join the majority decision affirming the dismissal of the petitioner’s appeal.  Rather, I would hold that dismissing an inmate’s claim based on Tennessee Code Annotated section 41-21-812 is permissible only if the record establishes that the inmates’ outstanding court costs were assessed against the inmate “under this part,” meaning in a manner consistent with Tennessee Code Annotated section 41-21-808(b).[1]  Because the record on appeal fails to establish that costs of the divorce action were assessed against Mr. Hughes “under this part,” consistently with section 41-21-808(b), I would reverse the dismissal and remand to the trial court for consideration of Mr. Hughes’s petition for certiorari on the merits.[2]



[1] For purposes of this opinion, it is assumed that courts may dismiss inmate claims based on Tennessee Code Annotated section 41-21-812, even though the statutory language does not expressly authorize court dismissal but provides only that “a clerk of a court may not accept for filing another claim by the same inmate until prior fees, taxes, costs and other expenses are paid in full.”  Tenn. Code Ann. § 41-21-812 (2014).

[2]I agree with the majority that only Tennessee Code Annotated section 41-21-812 is at issue in this appeal and that Tennessee Code Annotated section 41-21-807 is not applicable.

Davidson County Supreme Court 03/23/17
Reginald Dion Hughes v. Tennessee Board of Probation and Parole (Dissent)
M2015-00722-SC-R11-CV
Authoring Judge: Justice Sharon G. Lee
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Ellen H. Lyle

The Court bars Mr. Hughes’s access to the courthouse based on its interpretation of Tennessee Code Annotated sections 41-21-801 to -818, an act that adopted procedures and penalties for prison inmates who file frivolous or malicious lawsuits. As noted by the Court, the purpose of this act was to “offset the tide of frivolous inmate litigation filtering through the court system.” Under this act, a trial court may dismiss an inmate’s claim upon a finding that the claim is frivolous or malicious or if the inmate has previously filed three or more claims found to be frivolous or malicious. The specific section at issue is section 41-21-812(a), which provides that “on notice of assessment of any fees, taxes, costs and expenses under this part, a clerk of a court may not accept for filing another claim by the same inmate until prior fees, taxes, costs and other expenses are paid in full.” Id. (emphasis added).[1]



[1]Tennessee Code Annotated section 41-21-812(b) is not at issue. It allows an inmate who owes costs and fees “to file a claim for injunctive relief seeking to enjoin an act or failure to act that creates a substantial threat of irreparable injury or serious physical harm to the inmate.” Id.

 

Davidson County Supreme Court 03/23/17
Reginald Dion Hughes v. Tennessee Board of Probation and Parole
M2015-00722-SC-R11-CV
Authoring Judge: Justice Roger A. Page
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Ellen H. Lyle

The petition for writ of certiorari of Reginald Dion Hughes (“petitioner”) to the chancery court from the Tennessee Board of Probation and Parole‟s denial of parole was dismissed pursuant Tennessee Code Annotated section 41-21-812 following the discovery that petitioner still owed $258.58 from prior cases. Petitioner appealed the chancery court's decision, but the Court of Appeals also dismissed the appeal pursuant to Tennessee Code Annotated section 41-21-812. Hughes v. Tenn. Bd. Prob. and Parole, No. M2015-00722-COA-R3-CV (Tenn. Ct. App. July 1, 2015) (order dismissing appeal), perm. app. granted (Tenn. Feb. 2, 2016). Petitioner then requested permission to appeal to this court, alleging that section 41-21-812 was unconstitutional. We granted petitioner‟s request to review this case and to determine “[w]hether Tennessee Code Annotated section 41-21-812(a) is constitutional as applied to this case.” After reviewing the record, the parties' arguments, and the applicable law, we affirm the judgment of the Court of Appeals and dismiss petitioner's appeal.

Davidson County Supreme Court 03/23/17
State of Tennessee v. Spencer Peterson
W2016-00787-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert L. Holloway, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge J. Robert Carter, Jr.

Spencer Peterson (“the Defendant”) appeals the summary denial of his Tennessee Rule of Criminal Procedure 36.1 motion to correct an illegal sentence. Discerning no error, we affirm the trial court’s summary denial of the motion.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 03/23/17
State of Tennessee v. John Hudson
W2016-00913-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert L. Holloway, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Chris Craft

John Hudson (“the Defendant”) appeals the trial court’s denial of his motion for reduction of sentence under Rule 35 of the Tennessee Rules of Criminal Procedure, asserting that he was entitled to relief because the trial court acted without jurisdiction when it revoked the Defendant’s probation. Discerning no error, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 03/23/17
In Re: Hailey O., Et Al.
E2016-01657-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge Richard H. Dinkins
Trial Court Judge: Judge Timothy E. Irwin
The father of two children appeals the termination of his parental rights on the grounds of
abandonment by failure to visit them within the four month period preceding his
incarceration and by engaging in conduct prior to his incarceration that exhibits a wanton
disregard for the welfare of the children. Finding no error, we affirm the judgment in all
respects.
Knox County Court of Appeals 03/23/17
State of Tennessee v. Clyde Hobbs
M2016-00924-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Kelly Thomas, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Justin C. Angel

The Defendant, Clyde Hobbs, appeals as of right from the Grundy County Circuit Court’s revocation of his probation and order of confinement for eight years.  The Defendant contends that the trial court abused its discretion when it determined that the Defendant had violated specialized conditions of his probation.  Additionally, the Defendant argues that the trial court abused its discretion in fully revoking the Defendant’s probation without considering possible alternatives.  Following our review, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Grundy County Court of Criminal Appeals 03/23/17
State of Tennessee v. Carl Hall
W2016-00915-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Kelly Thomas, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge James C. Beasley, Jr.

The Appellant, Carl Hall, appeals as of right from the Shelby County Criminal Court’s summary denial of his Tennessee Rule of Criminal Procedure 36.1 motion to correct an illegal sentence. The Appellant contends that the trial court erred because his motion stated a colorable claim for relief. Discerning no error, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 03/22/17
State of Tennessee v. William Crayton
W2016-01708-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge James Curwood Witt, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Lee V. Coffee

The defendant, William Crayton, appeals the summary dismissal of his motion, filed pursuant to Tennessee Rule of Criminal Procedure 36.1, to correct what he believes to be an illegal sentence imposed for his 2009 Shelby County Criminal Court jury conviction of criminal attempt to commit first degree murder. Discerning no error, we affirm.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 03/22/17
State of Tennessee v. Tony Wolfe
W2016-00903-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert H. Montgomery, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge J. Robert Carter, Jr.

The Petitioner, Tony Wolfe, appeals from the Shelby County Criminal Court’s denial of his motion to reopen his post-conviction petition on the basis of newly discovered scientific mental health evidence. He contends that the post-conviction court erred in denying his motion without conducting a hearing on the merits. Because the Petitioner has no appeal as of right from the denial of a motion to reopen and did not follow the procedure required for seeking permission to appeal, we dismiss the appeal.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 03/22/17