Court Opinions

Format: 02/25/2020
Format: 02/25/2020
State of Tennessee v. Tommie Taylor
W2018-02269-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge J. Ross Dyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Lee V. Coffee

The defendant, Tommie Taylor, was convicted by a Shelby County Criminal Court jury for possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. On appeal, the defendant challenges the sufficiency of the evidence supporting his conviction, arguing the State failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt the defendant was the person who shot the victim. After our review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 11/26/19
Barry Leon Ferguson v. State of Tennessee
W2019-00134-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge J. Ross Dyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge R. Lee Moore, Jr.

The petitioner, Barry Leon Ferguson, appeals the denial of his post-conviction petition, arguing the post-conviction court erred in finding he received effective the assistance of counsel prior to and during his guilty plea hearing. After our review of the record, briefs, and applicable law, we affirm the denial of the petition.

Dyer County Court of Criminal Appeals 11/26/19
State of Tennessee v. Jamal Bowens
W2019-00253-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge J. Ross Dyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge John Wheeler Campbell

The defendant, Jamal Bowens, appeals from the entry of an order denying his motion to suspend the remainder of his sentence pursuant to Tennessee Code Annotated § 40-35-306(c). The defendant pleaded guilty to robbery and aggravated assault, both Class C felonies, for which he received a total effective sentence of six years in the Tennessee Department of Correction. In denying the defendant’s motion, the trial court found the defendant was not a suitable candidate for probation. Following our review of the record, we conclude the trial court did not abuse its discretion.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 11/26/19
Antonio Richardson v. State of Tennessee
W2019-00368-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge J. Ross Dyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge James M. Lammey

The petitioner, Antonio Richardson, appeals the denial of his post-conviction petition, arguing the post-conviction court erred in finding he received the effective assistance of counsel at trial. The petitioner also challenges the constitutionality of Rule 13 of the Tennessee Supreme Court Rules, claiming the post-conviction court erred in its adherence to the same. Following our review, we affirm the denial of the petition and the post-conviction court’s application of Rule 13.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 11/26/19
Cheryle Luane Levoy v. Jason Hunter Levoy
M2018-01276-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge W. Neal McBrayer
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Ronald Thurman

In this post-divorce dispute, the mother filed a criminal contempt petition against her ex-husband, alleging multiple violations of a permanent parenting plan.  The husband responded with a petition for temporary emergency custody.  The trial court granted temporary custody to the father and scheduled a hearing on both petitions.  After the hearing, the court found the father guilty of 12 counts of criminal contempt beyond a reasonable doubt and sentenced him to 120 days in jail.  Finding no credible evidence to support the father’s custody petition, the court dissolved the temporary custody order.  On appeal, the father argues that the trial court erred in finding him guilty of criminal contempt.  Because the evidence is sufficient to support a finding of criminal contempt, we affirm.

Overton County Court of Appeals 11/26/19
Floyd Rodney Burns v. State of Tennessee
E2018-02174-COA-R9-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas R. Frierson, II
Trial Court Judge: Commissioner William A. Young

This appeal arose from a claim filed with the Tennessee Claims Commission (“the Commission”) against the State of Tennessee (“the State”), seeking an award of damages for defamation allegedly committed by a district attorney general through statements made to the media concerning the claimant. The State filed, inter alia, a Tennessee Rule of Civil Procedure 12.02(6) motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim upon which relief could be granted, and the claimant filed, inter alia, a response objecting to the motion. Following a hearing, the Commission denied the State’s motion to dismiss upon finding, in pertinent part, that the Commission did not have the authority to extend absolute immunity to district attorneys general. Upon the State’s application, the Commission and this Court each granted permission for interlocutory review. Having considered the certified question of whether the absolute privilege afforded to state officials for statements made in the course of their official duties, as recognized in Jones v. State, 426 S.W.3d 50 (Tenn. 2013), extends to district attorneys general, we determine that the privilege does not apply and accordingly affirm the Commission’s judgment.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 11/26/19
Carl J. Wagner v. State of Tennessee
M2018-02000-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Alan E. Glenn
Trial Court Judge: Judge Steve R. Dozier

The pro se Petitioner, Carl J. Wagner, appeals the denial of his petition for post-conviction DNA analysis and the dismissal of his Tennessee Rule of Civil Procedure 60.02 motion to correct/relieve him of his judgments of conviction. Following our review, we affirm the judgments of the post-conviction court.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 11/26/19
Tennessee Funding, LLC v. William H. Worley
M2018-01099-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge W. Neal McBrayer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Jeffrey F. Stewart

Two parties claim the authority to exercise the declarant’s rights under a declaration of restrictive covenants for a residential subdivision.  The original declarant, the developer of the subdivision, granted a security interest in all personal property associated with the subdivision, including “contract rights” and general intangibles, to the bank that financed the subdivision.  After the developer defaulted, the bank conducted a public sale of the personalty securing its debt and was the highest bidder at the sale.  A few months later, the developer fell into receivership, and the receiver sold the declarant’s rights under the declaration to a lot owner “free and clear of all liens and liabilities.”  The bank filed this action seeking a declaratory judgment regarding entitlement to the declarant’s rights and damages.  The lot owner moved for judgment on the pleadings.  The lot owner argued that the bank could not prove a superior claim because it had consented to and subordinated its security interest to the declaration.  The bank moved for partial summary judgment on its request for a declaratory judgment.  The trial court denied the motion for judgment on the pleadings and granted partial summary judgment to the bank.  We affirm. 

Marion County Court of Appeals 11/26/19
Donald Peden v. State of Tennessee
M2018-01670-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge James Curwood Witt, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Mark J. Fishburn

The petitioner, Donald Peden, appeals the denial of his petition for post-conviction relief, which petition challenged his convictions of attempted first degree murder and theft of property valued at $500 or less, alleging that he was deprived of the effective assistance of counsel. Because the petitioner’s post-conviction counsel also represented the petitioner on direct appeal, we remand to the post-conviction court to determine whether the petitioner knowingly and voluntarily agrees to waive post-conviction counsel’s conflict of interest.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 11/26/19
In Re Kolton C.
E2019-00736-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge Kenny Armstrong
Trial Court Judge: Judge Jerri Bryant

This is a termination of parental rights case. Mother/Appellant appeals the trial court’s termination of her parental rights to the minor child on the grounds of: (1) severe child abuse, Tenn. Code Ann. § 36-1-113(g)(4); and (2) abandonment by willful failure to visit and to support, Tenn. Code Ann. §§ 36-1-113(g)(1), § 36-1-102(1)(A)(i). Mother also appeals the trial court’s determination that termination of her parental rights is in the child’s best interest. Because Appellee did not meet her burden to show that Mother failed to support the child, we reverse the trial court’s termination of parental rights as to this ground. We affirm the trial court’s termination of Mother’s parental rights on the grounds of severe child abuse and failure to visit, and on its finding that termination of Appellant’s parental rights is in the child’s best interest.

Bradley County Court of Appeals 11/26/19
State of Tennessee v. Ketorrence Eugene Rollins
M2018-02150-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge James Curwood Witt, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Angelita Blackshear Dalton

The defendant, Ketorrence Eugene Rollins, appeals his Davidson County Criminal Court jury convictions of two counts of aggravated robbery, arguing that the evidence adduced at trial was insufficient to sustain his convictions. Discerning no error, we affirm.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 11/26/19
William Cooper v. Board of Parole
M2018-01392-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Carma Dennis McGee
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Russell T. Perkins

This is an appeal from the judgment of the chancery court denying an inmate the relief requested in his petition for writ of certiorari.  The inmate is serving two concurrent life sentences, with the possibility of parole, for offenses of first degree murder.  The Tennessee Board of Parole declined to grant parole to the inmate, citing seriousness of the offense.  The chancery court concluded that the Board did not act arbitrarily, fraudulently, illegally, or in excess of its jurisdiction, in denying the inmate parole.  For the following reasons, we affirm the trial court’s order of dismissal. 

Davidson County Court of Appeals 11/26/19
Christopher James Terrazzano v. Alecia Ann Terrazzano
M2019-00400-COA-r3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge John W. McClarty
Trial Court Judge: Judge Amy V. Hollars

This action concerns the trial court’s designation of the primary residential parent, allocation of co-parenting time, and the division of marital debt following the parties’ divorce. We affirm the rulings on these issues made by the trial court.

Putnam County Court of Appeals 11/26/19
Hubert Glenn Sexton, Jr. v. State of Tennessee
E2018-01864-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge J. Ross Dyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge E. Shayne Sexton

The petitioner, Hubert Glenn Sexton, Jr., appeals the denial of his post-conviction petition, in which the petitioner challenged his conviction for two counts of first degree murder, arguing the post-conviction court erred in finding he received the effective assistance of counsel at trial and on appeal. After our review of the record, briefs, and applicable law, we conclude the petitioner was denied his constitutional right to a fair and impartial jury and received the ineffective assistance of counsel. Accordingly, we reverse the judgment of the post-conviction court, vacate the petitioner’s convictions, and remand the case to the trial court for a new trial.

Scott County Court of Criminal Appeals 11/25/19
In Re Antonio J. Et Al.
M2019-00255-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge J. Steven Stafford
Trial Court Judge: Judge Clara W. Byrd

Mother appeals the termination of her parental rights on grounds of persistence of conditions and failure to manifest a willingness and ability to assume custody. The trial court’s order is affirmed in all respects.

Trousdale County Court of Appeals 11/25/19
In Re: Jayda H.
E2019-00855-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge Arnold B. Goldin
Trial Court Judge: Judge Janice Hope Snider

This is an appeal from a termination of parental rights proceeding. The trial court found that three grounds for termination had been established against the child’s father: substantial noncompliance with the requirements of the permanency plan, persistent conditions, and failure to manifest an ability to parent. The trial court also determined that it was in the child’s best interests to terminate the father’s parental rights. We affirm.

Hamblen County Court of Appeals 11/25/19
Chad Ray Thompson v. State of Tennessee
M2018-01074-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Kelly Thomas, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Larry B. Stanley, Jr.

The Petitioner, Chad Ray Thompson, appeals from the denial of his petition for post-conviction relief, wherein he challenged his jury convictions for first degree premeditated murder, first degree felony murder, and facilitation of especially aggravated robbery. On appeal, the Petitioner alleges that he received ineffective assistance at trial due to trial counsel’s (1) failure to seek funding for an investigator and adequately prepare for trial; (2) failure to call certain witnesses; and (3) failure to file any pretrial motions or object at trial to exclude evidence. He also submits that the cumulative effect of these errors deprived him of a fair trial. After a thorough review of the record, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Warren County Court of Criminal Appeals 11/25/19
Jonathan Linkous v. Tiki Club, Inc.
E2019-00357-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas R. Frierson, II
Trial Court Judge: Judge John D. McAfee

This appeal arises from a personal injury action against the defendant restaurant after the plaintiff was allegedly injured due to a slip and fall following his use of a portable restroom facility located on the defendant’s premises. The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of the defendant upon finding that no genuine issue of material fact existed that would show the defendant had either actual or constructive notice of the alleged dangerous condition. In so ruling, the trial court excluded the plaintiff’s expert from testifying regarding the portable restroom facility. The plaintiff has appealed. Having determined that the trial court erred in excluding the expert witness’s testimony, we vacate and remand.

Campbell County Court of Appeals 11/22/19
In Re Estate of Margaret Owens Bush Baker
W2019-00229-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas R. Frierson, II
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Carma Dennis McGee

In this probate action involving a testate decedent, the surviving spouse filed a petition seeking to claim an elective share in addition to homestead rights, exempt property, and year’s support. The surviving spouse later withdrew his petition for an elective share but continued to assert claims for exempt property and year’s support. The trial court denied those claims, determining that the statutory provisions governing a surviving spouse’s claims for exempt property and year’s support require that the claimant had also simultaneously elected against the decedent’s will. The surviving spouse has appealed. Discerning no reversible error, we affirm.

Carroll County Court of Appeals 11/22/19
In Re Malik G., Et Al.
E2019-01040-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Michael Swiney
Trial Court Judge: Judge Janice Hope Snider

This appeal concerns the termination of a mother’s parental rights. The Tennessee Department of Children’s Services (“DCS”) filed a petition in the Juvenile Court for Hamblen County (“the Juvenile Court”) seeking to terminate the parental rights of Chaunte G. (“Mother”) to her three minor children, Malik, Sean and Jaslene (“the Children,” collectively). After a hearing, the Juvenile Court found that DCS had proven the grounds of abandonment by failure to visit, substantial noncompliance with the permanency plan, persistent conditions, and failure to manifest a willingness and ability to assume legal and physical custody of the Children, all by clear and convincing evidence. The Juvenile Court found also that termination of Mother’s parental rights is in the Children’s best interest. Mother appeals to this Court, arguing mainly that terminating her parental rights is not in the Children’s best interest because she completed a number of her permanency plan tasks after the petition was filed. First, save for the ground of abandonment by failure to visit, which we reverse, we affirm the grounds for termination found by the Juvenile Court. As for the Children’s best interest, despite Mother’s tardy completion of some of her permanency plan tasks, the evidence nevertheless proves that it is unlikely she can safely parent the Children any time soon. Applying the standard of clear and convincing evidence, we find that termination of Mother’s parental rights is in the Children’s best interest. While we reverse one ground for termination, we otherwise affirm the judgment of the Juvenile Court terminating Mother’s parental rights to the Children.

Hamblen County Court of Appeals 11/21/19
Penney Mosley, et al. v. City of Memphis, et al.
W2019-00199-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge J. Steven Stafford
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Jim Kyle

This matter concerns judicial review of a motion to disqualify a city attorney and/or the entire Memphis City Attorney’s Office from appearing in administrative cases pending before the Memphis Civil Service Commission between May 18, 2015 and September 29, 2017. Appellants argue that an assistant city attorney created a conflict of interest for herself and/or the entire office after she filed a notice of appearance claiming she represented the civil service commission in a separate case appealed to Chancery Court. Appellees argue that, even if the notice of appearance created a representation, state statutes and case law would permit the representation. The Civil Service Commission denied the Appellants’ motion, and the Shelby County Chancery Court affirmed the Commission’s decision. After applying the review standards outlined in the Uniform Administrative Procedures Act, we affirm the ruling of the Chancery Court.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 11/21/19
State of Tennessee v. Angela Carrie Payton Hamm and David Lee Hamm - Dissenting
W2016-01282-SC-R11-CD
Authoring Judge: Justice Cornelia A. Clark
Trial Court Judge: Judge Jeff Parham

I respectfully dissent from the majority’s decision upholding the constitutionality of the warrantless and suspicionless search of Angela Payton Hamm’s home. In so holding, the majority erroneously equates the privacy interests of probationers and parolees despite statements by the United States Supreme Court and this Court that probationers have greater expectations of privacy than parolees. Samson v. California, 547 U.S. 843, 850 (2006); State v. Stanfield, 554 S.W.3d 1, 10 (Tenn. 2018); State v. Turner, 297 S.W.3d 155, 162 (Tenn. 2009). I would hold that the state and federal constitutional safeguards against unreasonable searches and seizures require law enforcement officers to establish reasonable suspicion for a warrantless search of a probationer. Here, as the courts below concluded, the State failed to establish reasonable suspicion for the search. Accordingly, I would hold that the search violated the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution and article I, section 7 of the Tennessee Constitution and affirm the Court of Criminal Appeals’ judgment upholding the trial court’s decisions granting the defendant’s motion to suppress and dismissing the indictments.  

Obion County Supreme Court 11/21/19
State of Tennessee v. Angela Carrie Payton Hamm and David Lee Hamm - Dissenting
W2016-01282-SC-R11-CD
Authoring Judge: Justice Sharon G. Lee
Trial Court Judge: Judge Jeff Parham

One afternoon in November 2015, while David and Angela Hamm were not at home, four law enforcement officers entered and conducted a search of their home. The officers had neither a warrant nor reasonable suspicion of criminal activity. Ms. Hamm was on probation; the officers used her probationary status to justify the intrusive home search. The majority’s decision to uphold this unreasonable search deprives Ms. Hamm and her husband of their rights to be free from unreasonable searches under the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution and Article I, section 7 of the Tennessee Constitution. The majority’s decision also casts a cloud over the lives of more than 65,000 Tennessee probationers and thousands of citizens living with probationers, all of whom are at risk of having their homes searched by law enforcement lacking reasonable suspicion of criminal activity. 

Obion County Supreme Court 11/21/19
State of Tennessee v. Angela Carrie Payton Hamm and David Lee Hamm
W2016-01282-SC-R11-CD
Authoring Judge: Justice Roger A. Page
Trial Court Judge: Judge Jeff Parham

The Obion County Drug Task Force conducted a warrantless search of the residence of probationer Angela Hamm and her husband, David Hamm, which yielded illegal drugs and drug-related contraband.  Defendant Angela Hamm had agreed, pursuant to probation conditions imposed in a prior case, to a warrantless search of her person, property, or vehicle at any time.  We granted the State’s appeal in this case to consider whether the warrantless search of a probationer’s residence who is subject to a search condition requires officers to have reasonable suspicion of illegal activity prior to conducting the search.  We conclude that it does not and therefore reverse the trial court’s judgment and the Court of Criminal Appeals’ decision affirming the same.

Obion County Supreme Court 11/21/19
Daniel G. Carr v. State of Tennessee - Concurring/Dissenting
M2017-01389-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert H. Montgomery, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Brody Kane

I concur with the majority’s conclusions to reverse the judgment of the post-conviction court and to remand this case for consideration of whether due process requires tolling of the one-year statute of limitations and, if so, whether the Petitioner is entitled to
post-conviction relief. However, I respectfully disagree with the majority’s conclusion that the Petitioner is entitled to habeas corpus relief.

Macon County Court of Criminal Appeals 11/21/19