Court Opinions

Format: 10/22/2018
Format: 10/22/2018
In Re Estate of Ivy Lonzo Armstrong
M2017-00341-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Richard H. Dinkins
Trial Court Judge: Judge Michael R. Meise

Heirs of intestate decedent appeal the probate court’s construction and interpretation of a trust agreement established by the decedent’s wife and the decedent’s wife’s will. The trust terminated at the death of the decedent and court awarded the assets remaining in the trust in accordance with the residual clause of the decedent’s wife’s will, rather than allowing the assets to go to Husband’s estate, as sought by the decedent’s heirs. We conclude that the trial court’s construction and interpretation of the instruments and distribution of assets aligns with the decedent’s wife’s expressed intent and accordingly, affirm the judgment.

Dickson County Court of Appeals 09/27/18
George A. Bavelis v. Ted Doukas Et Al.
E2017-02050-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Arnold B. Goldin, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Clarence E. Pridemore, Jr.

This is a fraudulent transfer case. Defendant-debtor purportedly orchestrated the removal and transfer of large sums of money to and from several different business entities—all of which are controlled by Defendant. Plaintiff-creditor sued, at first naming only Defendant and one entity; however, during the course of litigation, Plaintiff discovered two other entities possibly involved in Defendant’s scheme. After being added as defendants, these two additional entities moved to dismiss Plaintiff’s TUFTA claim against them pursuant to Tennessee Rule of Civil Procedure 12.02(6), which the trial court granted. We reverse.

Knox County Court of Appeals 09/27/18
State of Tennessee v. Thomas Allen Stringer
E2017-01614-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas T. Woodall
Trial Court Judge: Judge James F. Goodwin

Defendant, Thomas Allen Stringer, was indicted for two counts of aggravated assault and one count of felony evading arrest. In a superseding presentment, Defendant was charged with two counts of aggravated assault, felony evading arrest, and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. Following a jury trial, Defendant was convicted of two counts of misdemeanor assault and one count of felony evading arrest. The jury found Defendant not guilty of possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. Following a sentencing hearing, the trial court sentenced Defendant to three years for his felony evading arrest conviction and 11 months and 29 days for each of his assault convictions. The trial court ordered all of Defendant’s sentences to run consecutive to each other. The court ordered Defendant to serve three years, 11 months, and 29 days incarcerated and the remaining 11 months and 29 days to be served on Community Corrections. In this appeal as of right, Defendant contends that his sentence is excessive and the trial court abused its discretion by imposing consecutive sentencing. Finding no error, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Sullivan County Court of Criminal Appeals 09/27/18
Charles Glen Connor v. State of Tennessee
M2017-01003-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Camille R. McMullen
Trial Court Judge: Judge Mark J. Fishburn

The Petitioner, Charles Glen Connor, appeals from the Davidson County Criminal Court’s denial of post-conviction relief arguing (1) that “the State failed to provide and defense counsel failed to seek discoverable recorded interviews of witnesses in violation of Brady v. Maryland, [373 U.S. 83 (1963)],” and (2) that trial counsel “failed to keep [the Petitioner] informed of the evidence against him.” After a thorough review of the record, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 09/27/18
Waste Administrative Services, Inc. v. The Krystal Company, Et Al.
E2017-01094-COA-R9-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Michael Swiney, C.J.
Trial Court Judge: Judge William T. Ailor

We granted the Rule 9 application for an interlocutory appeal filed by The Krystal Company (“Krystal”) to consider whether certain communications between Krystal’s chief legal officer and David Jungling (“Jungling”), an employee of Krystal vendor Denali Sourcing Services, Inc. (“Denali”), are protected by attorney-client privilege. Waste Administrative Services, Inc. (“WASI”), which provided refuse service for Krystal, sued Krystal, Denali, and Jungling in the Circuit Court for Knox County (“the Trial Court”) alleging that Krystal breached their contract by unilaterally terminating it and that Denali and Jungling induced the breach. The Trial Court held that communications between Jungling and Krystal’s chief legal officer after June 9, 2014— at which time Krystal and Denali executed a master agreement—are protected by attorney-client privilege while prior communications are not. We hold that Jungling was the functional equivalent of a Krystal employee as of October 31, 2013 when he was told by Krystal’s President to “take lead” on Krystal’s dealings with WASI, and that his subsequent communications with Krystal’s chief legal officer qualify for attorney-client privilege belonging to Krystal. We, therefore, modify the judgment of the Trial Court and remand this case for further proceedings consistent with this Opinion.

Knox County Court of Appeals 09/27/18
State of Tennessee v. Edgar C. Salinas
M2018-00158-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Norma McGee Ogle
Trial Court Judge: Judge Forest A. Durard, Jr.

The Appellant, Edgar C. Salinas, appeals the Bedford County Circuit Court’s denial of his petition for a writ of certiorari seeking relief from his two convictions of aggravated sexual battery and resulting effective twenty-two-year sentence. Based upon the record and the parties’ briefs, the appeal is dismissed.

Bedford County Court of Criminal Appeals 09/27/18
Howard Hawk Willis v. Grand Jury Foreperson Beverly Johnson
E2017-02225-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas R. Frierson, II
Trial Court Judge: Judge Jerri S. Bryant

The pro se appellant, a state inmate incarcerated on capital murder convictions, filed a petition for a writ of mandamus in the Bradley County Chancery Court (“trial court”). Claiming to have information regarding a homicide other than those for which he was convicted, the petitioner requested that the trial court direct the Bradley County Grand Jury foreperson to grant him the right to testify before the grand jury pursuant to Tennessee Code Annotated § 40-12-104 (2014). The petitioner subsequently filed a motion to be transported for a hearing, requesting that the trial court issue a habeas corpus ad testificandum. The State of Tennessee (“the State”) then filed a response in opposition to the petition for writ of mandamus. The petitioner responded by filing a motion to strike the State’s response, arguing that the State was not a proper party to this action. On October 26, 2017, the trial court entered an order dismissing the petition for writ of mandamus, finding, inter alia, that the petitioner possessed no mandatory right to appear before the grand jury. The petitioner has appealed. Discerning no reversible error, we affirm.

Bradley County Court of Appeals 09/27/18
In Re: E.M.
E2017-02304-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge Charles D. Susano, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Alex E. Pearson

The Department of Children’s Services filed a petition to terminate the parental rights of L.B.M. (mother) and J.W.H. (father) with respect to their only child, E.M. The trial court found clear and convincing evidence for terminating mother’s rights on the ground of severe child abuse. By the same quantum of proof, the court found that termination of mother’s rights is in the best interest of the child. Mother appeals the trial court’s order terminating her rights. We affirm.

Greene County Court of Appeals 09/27/18
State of Tennessee v. Charlotte Lynn Frazier And Andrea Parks
M2016-02134-SC-R11-CD
Authoring Judge: Justice Cornelia A. Clark
Trial Court Judge: Judge Robert E. Burch

The question in this appeal is whether the courts below erred by holding that evidence seized from the defendants’ residences in the 19th Judicial District of Tennessee should be suppressed because the warrants were signed by a Circuit Court Judge of the 23rd Judicial District of Tennessee. We hold that, in the absence of interchange, designation, appointment, or other lawful means, a circuit court judge in Tennessee lacks jurisdiction to issue search warrants for property located outside the judge’s statutorily assigned judicial district. Nothing in the record on appeal establishes that the 23rd Judicial District Circuit Court Judge obtained jurisdiction to issue search warrants for property in the 19th Judicial District by interchange, designation, appointment, or other lawful means. As a result, the courts below correctly held that the 23rd Judicial District Circuit Court Judge lacked authority to issue the search warrants, and that, as a result, the searches were constitutionally invalid. Furthermore, although the issue was not raised in the trial court, in the exercise of our supervisory authority, we have considered the State’s argument that the good-faith exception to the exclusionary rule applies in these circumstances and conclude that it does not. Accordingly, we affirm the judgment of the Court of Criminal
Appeals, which upheld the trial court’s order granting the defendants’ motions to suppress.

Dickson County Supreme Court 09/26/18
Charles Stephen Perry et al. v. Winfield Scott Niles et al.
E2017-01891-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Michael Swiney
Trial Court Judge: Judge Douglas T. Jenkins

Winfield Scott Niles (“Niles”) and Nancy Niles appeal the judgment of the Chancery Court for Greene County (“the Trial Court”) in this suit involving disputes regarding easements across real property owned by Niles located in Greene County, Tennessee. Niles raises issues regarding the Trial Court’s findings regarding the width and the permitted uses of the easements and the Trial Court’s finding that Niles was in contempt of court. We find and hold that the Trial Court did not err in determining the width and permitted uses of the easements. We further find and hold that the Trial Court did not err in finding Niles in contempt of court. Finding no error, we affirm the Trial Court’s February 28, 2017 Judgment.

Greene County Court of Appeals 09/26/18
In Re: C.T. ET AL.
E2017-02148-COA-R3-JV
Authoring Judge: Judge Charles D. Susano, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge John D. McAfee

J.S. (father) appeals the trial court’s adjudication that his children C.T. and L.T. were dependent and neglected and severely abused in the care of father and A.T. (mother). Mother, who did not appeal, testified, among other things, that father bought her illegal drugs while she was pregnant, and that she and father abused drugs and alcohol during her pregnancy. Father denied mother’s allegations. The twin children were born prematurely and tested positive for opana, an opioid, and oxycodone. The trial court expressly credited mother’s testimony and discredited father’s. On appeal, father bases his assertion of error solely on his argument that the trial court incorrectly assessed the credibility of the witnesses, and that the trial court should have believed him instead of mother. We affirm.

Union County Court of Appeals 09/26/18
Maria Kalis Buchanan v. Rodney M. Buchanan
E2017-02364-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas R. Frierson, II
Trial Court Judge: Judge Jean A. Stanley

In this divorce action, the trial court entered a “Judgment and Parenting Plan” on July 10, 2017, which addressed, inter alia, issues regarding division of the parties’ assets and debts, co-parenting time with the parties’ minor children, child support, and alimony. Within thirty days of entry of the judgment, the parties filed competing motions, pursuant to Tennessee Rule of Civil Procedure 59, seeking amendment of the July 10, 2017 judgment. The trial court conducted a hearing regarding the Rule 59 motions on August 1, 2017; issued an oral ruling; and directed the mother’s counsel to prepare an order. On August 7, 2017, the father filed a petition seeking to modify the parties’ permanent parenting plan in order to reflect that one of the children had recently been spending minimal time with the mother. Subsequently, on September 11, 2017, the father filed a motion seeking recusal of the trial court judge, asserting that the judge had exhibited bias against the father or his counsel by the judge’s statements and actions during the August 1, 2017 hearing. On November 6, 2017, the trial court entered an order disposing of the Rule 59 motions. Later that same day, the trial court entered a separate order granting the recusal motion. The mother filed an appeal from the trial court’s order concerning the Rule 59 motions. On appeal, the father filed a motion to dismiss the appeal and a motion seeking this Court’s consideration of certain post-judgment facts. We grant the father’s motion to consider post-judgment facts and deny his motion to dismiss the mother’s appeal. Discerning no error in the trial court’s distribution of marital assets and allocation of debts, we affirm such adjudications in their entirety. We vacate, however, the trial court’s award of rehabilitative alimony and remand the spousal support issue to the trial court for further proceedings consistent with this opinion. We grant the mother’s request for an award of attorney’s fees on appeal, remanding that issue to the trial court for a determination of the appropriate amount of reasonable attorney’s fees to be awarded.

Washington County Court of Appeals 09/26/18
James Meng v. City of Memphis, Tennessee
W2017-01883-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge J. Steven Stafford
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor JoeDae L. Jenkins

This appeal results from the trial court’s dismissal of a complaint for declaratory judgment on the ground of res judicata. In 2011, the City of Memphis issued environmental neglect citations to two adjoining property owners related to damage to the properties that required significant repair. The property owners agreed with the City that repairs were necessary but could not agree on the allocation of the cost of the repairs. The cases were eventually consolidated before the environmental division of general sessions court, and the court entered an order allowing the City of Memphis to proceed with the repair and charge the costs to both owners as tax liens. After the City of Memphis completed the repair, it charged each owner one-half of the cost of the repairs. One owner thereafter filed suit for a declaratory judgment in Shelby County Chancery Court, arguing that it did not owe one-half of the repair costs due to the fact that the repairs were necessitated by neglect to the other property. Following a trial, the trial court ruled in favor of the City of Memphis, finding that the property owner’s action was barred by the doctrine of res judicata. We reverse and remand for further proceedings.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 09/25/18
Ricky L. Hill v. State of Tennessee
W2017-02380-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Camille R. McMullen
Trial Court Judge: Judge J. Weber McCraw

The pro se Petitioner, Ricky L. Hill, appeals the McNairy County Circuit Court’s dismissal of his petition for post-conviction relief. The State has filed a motion requesting that this Court affirm the lower court’s denial of relief pursuant to Rule 20 of the Rules of the Court of Criminal Appeals. Because the Petitioner has failed to establish that he is entitled to post-conviction relief, we conclude that the State’s motion is welltaken. Accordingly, we affirm the summary dismissal of the motion.

McNairy County Court of Criminal Appeals 09/25/18
State of Tennessee v. Daron Lekithe Moss
W2018-00038-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Kelly Thomas, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge J. Weber McCraw

The Defendant, Daron Lekithe Moss, was convicted by a jury of one count of rape. On appeal, the Defendant contends that (1) the evidence was insufficient to sustain his conviction; (2) the prosecutor made improper and inflammatory comments during closing argument; and (3) the State failed to include a witness who testified at trial in the original indictment. Following our review, the judgment of the trial court is affirmed.

Hardeman County Court of Criminal Appeals 09/25/18
200 Linden Avenue Properties, G.P., et al. v. Cheyenne Johnson, Shelby County Assessor of Property, et al.
W2017-02372-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge J. Steven Stafford
Trial Court Judge: Judge Jerry Stokes

Petitioner appeals from the Shelby County Circuit Court’s decision to grant summary judgment to the Respondents, Shelby County Assessor of Property and Shelby County Trustee, as to Petitioner’s claims challenging tax assessments issued by the Assessor of Property. We conclude that Tennessee Code Annotated section 67-5-1511 mandates that judicial review of property tax classification and valuation decisions are properly to chancery court. As such, we vacate the judgment of the trial court and remand with instructions to transfer this matter to the Shelby County Chancery Court.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 09/24/18
Doyale Montez Blacksmith v. State of Tennessee
M2017-02323-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Kelly Thomas, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Monte D. Watkins

The Petitioner, Doyale Montez Blacksmith, appeals from the Davidson County Criminal Court’s denial of his petition for post-conviction relief. The Petitioner contends that he received ineffective assistance from his trial counsel because trial counsel (1) failed to file a motion to withdraw from representation after the Petitioner requested that he do so; (2) failed “to call witnesses to rebut the victim’s testimony”; and (3) gave the Petitioner “incorrect advice” regarding the Petitioner’s decision not to testify at trial. Discerning no error, we affirm the judgment of the post conviction court.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 09/24/18
State of Tennessee v. Billy Joe Harrah
E2017-01869-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Camille R. McMullen
Trial Court Judge: Judge James F. Goodwin

The Defendant-Appellant, Billy Joe Harrah, was convicted by a Sullivan County jury of rape of a child, aggravated sexual battery, and incest, for which he received an effective sentence of forty years’ confinement. On appeal, he argues (1) the evidence was insufficient to support each of his convictions; and (2) the trial court improperly instructed the jury regarding flight. Upon our review, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Sullivan County Court of Criminal Appeals 09/24/18
State of Tennessee v. Henry Cofrancesco, III
E2017-01675-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas T. Woodall
Trial Court Judge: Judge Don W. Poole
Defendant, Henry Cofrancesco, III, was indicted by the Hamilton County Grand Jury for vehicular homicide, possession of cocaine, failure to yield, leaving the scene of an accident involving the death of another person, failure to render aid, DUI, and DUI per se. Defendant entered guilty pleas to vehicular homicide and DUI per se, and the remaining counts were dismissed upon motion of the State. Defendant received a sentence of 11 months and 29 days for his DUI conviction, and the trial court sentenced Defendant to nine years’ incarceration for his vehicular homicide conviction and merged the two convictions. In this appeal as of right, Defendant contends that the trial court abused its discretion by denying alternative sentencing. Following our review of the record, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.
Hamilton County Court of Criminal Appeals 09/24/18
Rafia Nafees Khan v. Regions Bank
E2017-02454-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Charles D. Susano, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Clarence E. Pridemore, Jr.

This is the third appeal arising from a disputed arbitration award. After the first appeal, this Court remanded the case to the trial court for the purpose of entering an order confirming the award in favor of Regions Bank (the Bank) “as to the Rafia N. Khan Irrevocable Trust.” The trial court subsequently entered an order confirming the award against “the Rafia N. Khan Irrevocable Trust” and “Rafia N. Khan as Trustee of the Rafia N. Khan Irrevocable Trust.” Over twenty months later, Rafia Khan filed an independent action in equity asking the trial court to set aside its judgment confirming the award. Pursuant to Tenn. R. Civ. P. 12.02(6), the Bank filed a motion to dismiss and raised the affirmative defense of res judicata. The trial court granted the Bank’s motion to dismiss on the basis of res judicata. We vacate the trial court’s findings with respect to res judicata. Nevertheless, we affirm the court’s dismissal of the case because Ms. Khan’s complaint failed to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.

Knox County Court of Appeals 09/24/18
State of Tennessee v. Ariana Tarience Harris
W2017-02302-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Alan E. Glenn
Trial Court Judge: Judge Roy B. Morgan, Jr.

The Defendant, Ariana Tarience Harris, appeals the trial court’s revocation of her probation, arguing that the court should have imposed an alternative sentence rather than ordering her to serve the balance of her original sentence incarcerated, and therefore abused its discretion. After thorough review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Madison County Court of Criminal Appeals 09/21/18
State of Tennessee v. Timerell Nelson
W2017-02279-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Alan E. Glenn
Trial Court Judge: Judge Chris Craft

On August 25 and 26, 2017, the Defendant, Timerell Nelson, was convicted of especially aggravated robbery, attempted second degree murder, and employment of a firearm during the commission of criminal attempt second degree murder. The trial court sentenced the Defendant to a total effective sentence of 16 years and the Defendant now argues on appeal that the evidence was insufficient to sustain his especially aggravated robbery conviction because the victim did not suffer serious bodily injury. See Tenn. Code Ann. § 39-13-401(a). After thorough review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 09/21/18
State of Tennessee v. Ronald Ellis
W2017-01035-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Alan E. Glenn
Trial Court Judge: Judge James C. Beasley, Jr.

On January 12, 2017, the Defendant, Ronald Ellis, was convicted of first-degree premeditated murder. The trial court sentenced him to life imprisonment in the Department of Correction. The Defendant argues on appeal that the evidence is insufficient to sustain his conviction because he was mentally incapable of premeditation at the time of the murder. He further argues that the trial court erred in denying his motion to suppress his confession and statement, asserting that both were obtained in violation of his Miranda rights, and that the aggregate effect of trial errors entitles him to a new trial. After thorough review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 09/21/18
State of Tennessee v. Marquette Benson aka Marquette Mukes
W2017-01276-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Alan E. Glenn
Trial Court Judge: Judge Chris Craft

The Defendant, Marquette Benson, aka Marquette Mukes, was convicted by a Shelby County Criminal Court jury of two counts of convicted felon in possession of a firearm, a Class C felony, based on two different prior felonies. The trial court merged the counts into a single conviction and sentenced the Defendant as a Range II, multiple offender to ten years in the Department of Correction. As best as we can understand the pro se Defendant’s brief and numerous supplemental motions he has filed with this court, he argues that the State engaged in prosecutorial misconduct by: redacting a chronology of a 911 call, improperly commenting on the evidence, and presenting false testimony; the trial court prevented him from presenting his defense by barring the admission of a police report; and the trial court exhibited bias by its various evidentiary rulings that favored the prosecution. Following our review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 09/21/18
State of Tennessee v. Dalvin Smith - Concurring
W2017-01915-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge James Curwood Witt, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge W. Mark Ward

I concur in affirming the sentences in this case, but I would rule that the record is inadequate for a ruling on the merits, resulting in a determination that we must presume the propriety of the trial court’s sentencing decisions. Most often, when only a sentencing issue is raised on appeal, the appellant has pleaded guilty. In this case, the defendant was tried and convicted by a jury. The record on appeal, however, does not include a transcript of the trial evidence.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 09/21/18