Court Opinions

Format: 03/30/2017
Format: 03/30/2017
Steven Yen v. University of Tennessee Knoxville
M2016-00875-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Brandon O. Gibson
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Ellen H. Lyle
This is an appeal of the University of Tennessee at Knoxville’s termination of a tenured faculty member. After the University terminated Appellant, he appealed the validity of his termination to an administrative hearing officer pursuant to the Tennessee Uniform Administrative Procedures Act. Following a contested hearing, the hearing officer upheld the University’s termination of Appellant. Appellant then petitioned the chancery court to reverse the decision of the hearing officer. The chancery court held that there was substantial and material evidence in the record to support the hearing officer’s decision to affirm the termination of Appellant’s employment and tenure. Discerning no reversible error, we affirm the judgment of the chancery court.
 
Davidson County Court of Appeals 03/21/17
Mitchell Nathaniel Scott v. State of Tennessee
M2016-01210-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Timothy L. Easter
Trial Court Judge: Judge Seth W. Norman

After pleading guilty to one count of aggravated child abuse, Petitioner sought unsuccessfully to withdraw his guilty plea.  Subsequently, Petitioner sought post-conviction relief on the basis of ineffective assistance of counsel, among other things.  The post-conviction court denied relief, and Petitioner appeals.  After a review, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 03/21/17
State of Tennessee v. Christopher Lee Williams
M2016-00568-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Timothy L. Easter
Trial Court Judge: Judge J. Randall Wyatt, Jr.

Defendant, Christopher Lee Williams, was convicted of reckless endangerment, aggravated kidnapping, and domestic assault.  Defendant raises the following issues on appeal: (1) whether dual convictions for aggravated kidnapping resulting in bodily injury and domestic assault based on bodily injury are proper, and (2) whether the trial court failed to consider a statutory mitigating factor in fashioning Defendant’s sentence.  After a review, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 03/21/17
Kelley Elizabeth Cannon v. State of Tennessee
M2015-01869-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert W. Wedemeyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Cheryl A. Blackburn

A Davidson County jury convicted the Petitioner, Kelley Elizabeth Cannon, of first degree premeditated murder and a life sentence was imposed.  On direct appeal, this Court affirmed the Petitioner’s conviction and sentence.  State v. Kelley Elizabeth Cannon, No. M2010-01553-CCA-R3-CD, 2012 WL 5378088, at *1 (Tenn. Crim. App., at Nashville, Oct. 30, 2012), perm. app. denied (Tenn. May 9, 2013).  The Petitioner filed a post-conviction petition alleging ineffective assistance of counsel, and the post-conviction court denied relief following a hearing.  On appeal, the Petitioner maintains that she received the ineffective assistance of counsel, asserts that the post-conviction court erred by preventing her use of trial exhibits for a demonstration and challenges the validity of the search warrants in this case.  After review, we affirm the post-conviction court’s judgment.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 03/21/17
State of Tennessee v. Christopher L. Smith
M2016-00662-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Alan E. Glenn
Trial Court Judge: Judge Justin C. Angel

The defendant, Christopher L. Smith, pled guilty to two counts of aggravated burglary and one count of aggravated assault, all Class C felonies, in exchange for an effective sentence of six years with the manner of service to be determined by the trial court.  Following a sentencing hearing, the trial court imposed a sentence of confinement, which the defendant now challenges.  After review, we affirm the sentencing decision of the trial court.

Franklin County Court of Criminal Appeals 03/20/17
Cedric Watkins v. State of Tennessee
M2016-00681-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Alan E. Glenn
Trial Court Judge: Judge Cheryl Blackburn

The petitioner, Cedric Watkins, appeals the denial of his petition for post-conviction relief from his first degree premeditated murder conviction, arguing that the post-conviction court erred in finding that he received effective assistance of trial counsel.  Following our review, we affirm the denial of the petition.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 03/20/17
In re Conner C., et al.
M2016-01669-COA-R3-JV
Authoring Judge: Judge Andy D. Bennett
Trial Court Judge: Judge Justin C. Angel

Mother appeals the circuit court’s dismissal of her de novo appeal of the juvenile court’s dependency and neglect order.  We agree with the circuit court that the juvenile court’s adjudicatory order was not a final order subject to appeal to the circuit court.

Franklin County Court of Appeals 03/20/17
Old Republic Life Insurance Company v. Roberta Woody, et al
E2016-00844-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Charles D. Susano, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge J. Michael Sharp

This case involves the interpretation and application of the prior suit pending doctrine. Old Republic Life Insurance Company (Insurer) brought this action in the McMinn County Circuit Court (the trial court) as subrogee of Darrell King, its insured, who had been injured in an accident. King’s attorneys filed three separate notices of appearance on his behalf. King also moved to intervene in his Insurer’s suit, but later withdrew his motion. Still later, Insurer moved to join King as a necessary and indispensible party. The trial court granted the motion. More than two and half years after Insurer’s complaint was filed, King filed a complaint in Davidson County seeking compensation for his injuries. The trial court granted King’s motion to dismiss this action based on the prior suit pending doctrine. We hold that, under the prior suit pending doctrine, the trial court, McMinn County Circuit Court, is the proper forum. We vacate the judgment of the trial court and remand for futher proceedings.

McMinn County Court of Appeals 03/17/17
Tehren Wilson v. State of Tennessee
W2016-00770-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Kelly Thomas, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Kyle C. Atkins

The Petitioner, Tehren Wilson, appeals as of right from the denial of his petition for postconviction relief. On appeal, the Petitioner contends that he received ineffective assistance of counsel based on trial counsel’s failure to file a written request for a jury charge on fraudulent use of a credit card as a lesser-included offense of identity theft. Following our review, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Madison County Court of Criminal Appeals 03/17/17
In Re Promise A., et al.
M2015-02144-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge Richard H. Dinkins
Trial Court Judge: Judge Timothy K. Barnes

The Department of Children’s Services received custody of two children as a result of a petition it filed to have the children declared dependent and neglected; the children’s mother had died, and they were unable to be placed with their father due to uncertainty regarding his paternity of the children and housing arrangement.  After custody was granted to the Department and a permanency plan developed, the father established his paternity; the permanency plan required that he continue to address his housing and employment situations, among other matters.  Eleven months after the children came into custody, the Department filed a petition to terminate Father’s rights on the grounds of abandonment by failure to visit or support, abandonment by failure to provide a suitable home, substantial noncompliance with the permanency plan, and persistence of conditions.  After a trial, the court found that clear and convincing evidence existed as to all grounds and that termination was in the best interest of the children. Father appeals, contending that the evidence preponderates against various findings of the court, that the evidence does not support a conclusion that any of the grounds were established, or that termination is in the children’s best interest.  Inasmuch as the children were not removed from the Father’s home at the time they came into the Department’s custody, we reverse the judgment terminating the Father’s rights on the grounds of persistence of conditions and abandonment by failure to provide a suitable home; in all other respects, the judgment is affirmed. 

Montgomery County Court of Appeals 03/16/17
State of Tennessee v. Jeffery Keith Toone, Jr.
W2015-02332-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Camille R. McMullen
Trial Court Judge: Judge Kyle C. Atkins

The Defendant-Appellant, Jeffery Keith Toone, Jr., pled guilty to two counts of extortion, ten counts of attempted sexual exploitation of a minor, and two counts of solicitation of sexual exploitation of a minor and received an effective four-year sentence, suspended to supervised probation after service of two consecutive sentences of eleven months and twenty-nine days in the county jail. As a condition of his guilty plea, Toone sought to reserve several certified questions of law pursuant to Tennessee Rule of Criminal Procedure 37(b)(2)(A), generally arguing that the transfer of his case from juvenile court to circuit court was improper. Because Toone's certified questions are overly broad, the appeal is dismissed.

Madison County Court of Criminal Appeals 03/16/17
Kenneth A. Parigin et al. v. M. Shane Mills
E2016-00640-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Frank G. Clement, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Clarence E. Pridemore, Jr.

The dispositive issue in this appeal is whether the defendant, who was actively involved in the formation of a limited liability company, is a member of the company. The trial court held that the defendant’s prospective membership interest was contingent on making a financial contribution of $180,000 plus business equipment, and because he failed to make the required contributions, he was not a member. We affirm.

Court of Appeals 03/16/17
State of Tennessee v. Joe Edward Daniels
M2015-01939-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge John Everett Williams
Trial Court Judge: Judge David Earl Durham

A jury convicted the Defendant, Joe Edward Daniels, of first degree (premeditated) murder.  The Defendant was also convicted of certain collateral crimes and traffic offenses, including tampering with evidence, a Class D felony; abuse of a corpse, a Class E felony; failure to give notice of an accident, a Class C misdemeanor; leaving the scene of an accident, a Class C misdemeanor; driving on the wrong side of the road, a Class C misdemeanor; and failure to use due care, a Class C misdemeanor.  The Defendant appeals his murder conviction, asserting that the State failed to prove premeditation and that the State’s proof regarding the chain of custody of the corpse should have preceded the medical examiner’s testimony.  The Defendant also claims error in the jury instructions, including the trial court’s decision not to charge attempt; the trial court’s decision to charge flight; the trial court’s inclusion of a charge regarding criminal responsibility and lack of notice regarding that charge; and the trial court’s failure to charge facilitation.  After a thorough review of the record, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Jackson County Court of Criminal Appeals 03/16/17
Cassidy Lynne Aragon v. Reynaldo Manuel Aragon
M2014-02292-SC-R11-CV
Authoring Judge: Justice Holly Kirby
Trial Court Judge: Judge Ross H. Hicks

In this post-divorce litigation, we granted permission to appeal to address the standard for determining what constitutes a “reasonable purpose” for a parent’s relocation with the parties’ child under Tennessee’s parental relocation statute, Tennessee Code Annotated § 36-6-108. In this case, the father spent the majority of the residential parenting time with the parties’ child.  He sought to move with the child to Arizona because he had secured an advantageous job in an area where he and the child would live near his parents and his extended family and have their support, and where he and the child would live near some of the mother’s extended family as well.  The trial court held that the father did not have a reasonable purpose for the relocation.  In a divided opinion, the Court of Appeals affirmed.  The dissent in the Court of Appeals questioned the interpretation of the term “reasonable purpose” used by the majority, which originated in a prior Court of Appeals decision, Webster v. Webster, No. W2005-01288-COA-R3CV, 2006 WL 3008019 (Tenn. Ct. App. Oct. 24, 2006), that construed the term “reasonable purpose” to mean one that is significant or substantial when weighed against the loss to the parent opposing the relocation.  We overrule Webster insofar as it misconstrued the meaning of the term “reasonable purpose” as used in Tennessee’s parental relocation statute.  Under the natural and ordinary meaning of the term “reasonable purpose,” we hold that the father stated a reasonable purpose for relocating to Arizona with the parties’ child and that the mother did not carry her burden of establishing a ground for denying the father permission to relocate with the child.  Under section 36-6-108(d)(1), “[t]he parent spending the greater amount of time with the child shall be permitted to relocate with the child unless the court finds” that the parent opposing the relocation has proven one of the enumerated grounds.  Because the mother did not prove a ground to deny permission to relocate, we reverse the trial court’s denial of permission for the father to relocate to Arizona with the child, and we also reverse the trial court’s modification of the parties’ parenting plan to designate the mother as the primary residential parent.  On remand, the trial court is authorized to fashion an appropriate transitional parenting plan that results, within a reasonable time, in designating the father as the primary residential parent and permitting him to live in Arizona with the parties’ child.  Accordingly, we reverse the trial court and the Court of Appeals and remand the case to the trial court for further proceedings consistent with this Opinion.

Montgomery County Supreme Court 03/16/17
State of Tennessee v. Terrance Lavar Walker
M2016-00687-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert W. Wedemeyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Joseph W. Woodruff

Pursuant to a plea agreement, the Defendant, Terrance Lavar Walker, pleaded guilty to delivery of more than .5 grams of cocaine with an agreed upon Range I sentence of nine years, with the trial court to determine the manner of service of the nine-year sentence.  After a sentencing hearing, the trial court denied the Defendant’s request for an alternative sentence and ordered that the Defendant serve nine years in confinement.  On appeal, the Defendant contends the trial court erred when it denied him an alternative sentence.  We affirm the trial court’s judgment.

Williamson County Court of Criminal Appeals 03/16/17
State of Tennessee v. Petr Pompa
M2016-00193-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Camille R. McMullen
Trial Court Judge: Judge Monte Watkins

The Defendant, Petr Pompa, was convicted by a Davidson County jury of two counts of sexual battery by an authority figure and two counts of statutory rape by an authority figure.  On appeal, the Defendant argues that (1) the trial court erred in allowing inadmissible opinion, character, and hearsay testimony at trial; (2) the trial court erred in excluding evidence of the victim’s motive to fabricate the allegations against the Defendant; (3) the trial court erred in allowing the victim to remain in the courtroom following her testimony; (4) the trial court erred in denying the Defendant’s motion for judgment of acquittal as to counts five and six; and (5) the Defendant’s sentence was unlawful.  Upon review, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 03/15/17
State of Tennessee v. Lavar Jernigan
M2016-00507-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert H. Montgomery, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Royce Taylor

The Defendant, Lavar Jernigan, was convicted by a Rutherford County Circuit Court jury of six counts of especially aggravated sexual exploitation of a minor, Class B felonies.  SeeT.C.A. § 39-17-1005 (2010) (amended 2013).  The trial court sentenced the Defendant to ten years for each count and ordered partial consecutive service, for an effective sentence of thirty years at 100% service.  On appeal, the Defendant contends that the trial court erred by (1) admitting in evidence a notebook containing text messages exchanged between the Defendant and the victim, (2) denying his motion to dismiss the indictment, and (3) denying his motion for a bill of particulars.  We affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Rutherford County Court of Criminal Appeals 03/15/17
State of Tennessee v. Jason Erik Redden
E2016-00998-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert H. Montgomery, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Thomas W. Graham

 The Defendant, Jason Erik Redden, pleaded guilty to two counts of official misconduct,Class E felonies, in exchange for concurrent sentences of two years each. See T.C.A. §§39-16-402 (2014). Pursuant to the plea agreement, the trial court was to determine themanner of service and ordered him to serve his sentence in confinement. On appeal, theDefendant contends that the court erred by denying (1) judicial diversion and (2) alternative sentencing. We affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Rhea County Court of Criminal Appeals 03/15/17
In re Braxton L.
E2017-00233-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge John W. McClarty
Trial Court Judge: Judge Brad L. Davidson

This is an appeal by the appellant, Jessica L., from an order terminating her parental rights to the minor child, Braxton L. The order terminating the appellant’s parental rights was entered on December 29, 2016. The Notice of Appeal was not filed until February 2, 2017, more than thirty (30) days from the date of entry of the final order. The Attorney General, on behalf of the appellee, Tennessee Department of Children’s Services, has filed a motion to dismiss this appeal based upon the untimely filing of the Notice of Appeal. Because the Notice of Appeal was not timely filed, we have no jurisdiction to consider this appeal and grant the motion to dismiss.

Cocke County Court of Appeals 03/15/17
Starbrough Jones v. State of Tennessee
W2016-00197-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Norma McGee Ogle
Trial Court Judge: Judge Chris Craft

The Petitioner, Starbrough Jones, filed a petition for post-conviction relief, alleging that his trial counsel was ineffective. The post-conviction court dismissed the petition as untimely. On appeal, the Petitioner concedes that the petition was untimely but maintains that due process requires tolling the statute of limitations because he was never “official[ly]” informed that counsel was withdrawing after this court filed its opinion on direct appeal and because counsel did not advise the Petitioner of his right to seek postconviction relief. Upon review, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 03/14/17
State of Tennessee, ex rel., James Frederick Roberts v. Elizabeth Dale Crafton
W2016-00550-COA-R3-JV
Authoring Judge: Chief Judge D. Michael Swiney
Trial Court Judge: Judge Dan H. Michael

The Notice of Appeal filed by James Frederick Roberts (“Father”) states that Father is appealing from the February 1, 2016 order of the Juvenile Court for Shelby County (“the Juvenile Court”). The February 1, 2016 order, however, is not a final judgment, and the case remains pending in the Juvenile Court. As such, we lack jurisdiction to consider this appeal, and it is dismissed without prejudice.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 03/14/17
State of Tennessee v. Christopher Douglas Smith-Dissenting
W2015-01826-CCA-R10-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Camille R. McMullen
Trial Court Judge: Judge Donald E. Parish

I must respectfully dissent from the majority in this case. This court granted the State’s request for extraordinary review pursuant to Rule 10 of the Tennessee Rules of Appellate Procedure. In this Rule 10 appeal, we permitted review of the following certified question: “Did the trial court abuse its discretion in excluding the evidence seized from the defendant after a warrantless arrest that was supported by probable cause?” In reversing the trial court, the majority relies on information from the confidential informant contained in the search warrant in support of the Defendant’s warrantless arrest. In my view, the majority has recast the certified question to whether the confidential informant’s tip provided sufficient probable cause to arrest the Defendant, which was not addressed by the trial court.

Carroll County Court of Criminal Appeals 03/14/17
State of Tennessee v. Christopher Douglas Smith
W2015-01826-CCA-R10-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Timothy L. Easter
Trial Court Judge: Judge Donald E. Parish

After the trial court denied an interlocutory appeal pursuant to Rule 9 of the Tennessee Rules of Appellate Procedure, the State sought an extraordinary appeal pursuant to Rule 10 of the Tennessee Rules of Appellate Procedure. This Court granted the State's application. On appeal, the State argues that the trial court erred in excluding the evidence seized from Defendant because the arresting officer had probable cause to arrest him for a felony drug offense and search him incident to that arrest. Following our review, we reverse the judgment of the trial court.

Carroll County Court of Criminal Appeals 03/14/17
Odell Wisdom v. Randy Lee, Warden, et al.
E2016-01737-CCA-R3-HC
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Kelly Thomas, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Lisa N. Rice

The Petitioner, Odell Wisdom, appeals as of right from the Johnson County Circuit Court’s summary dismissal of his petition for writ of habeas corpus. He claims entitlement to habeas corpus relief, alleging that his separate convictions for contempt and failure to appear violate double jeopardy principles. Following our review, we conclude that the Petitioner has failed to state a cognizable claim for relief and, therefore, affirm the summary dismissal of his petition.

Johnson County Court of Criminal Appeals 03/14/17
Xingkui Guo v. Woods & Woods, PP
M2016-01435-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Andy D. Bennett
Trial Court Judge: Judge Hamilton V. Gayden, Jr.
A former client sued his former attorney for breach of contract, and the trial court entered judgment in favor of the client for $3,500. Because the trial court found that the attorney had “justifiable reasons” for terminating the contract, and because the contract provided that the $7,000 set fee paid by the client at the beginning of the representation was earned upon payment, we have determined that the trial court erred in entering judgment in favor of the client.
 
Davidson County Court of Appeals 03/14/17