Court Opinions

Format: 09/14/2019
Format: 09/14/2019
Marilyn Kay Anderson v. James Cephas Anderson
M2018-01248-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge Frank G. Clement, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Ross H. Hicks

This appeal arises from a divorce. All the issues pertain to the classification, valuation, and equitable division of three large tracts of land. Husband acquired two of the tracts before the marriage: a 197-acre tract and a 103-acre tract. Both of these tracts were used in Husband’s farming operation before and during the marriage. During the marriage, Husband and Wife built their marital residence on a portion of the 197-acre tract. Husband acquired the third tract during the marriage but after the parties separated. Wife’s name is not on any of the deeds. Wife contends that the tracts Husband owned prior to the marriage transmuted into marital property. Alternatively, she contends their appreciation in value during the marriage was marital property. Wife also contends the third tract was marital property because Husband purchased it with marital funds from their joint bank account during the marriage. The trial court classified the 197-acre tract and the 103-acre tract as Husband’s separate property and held that none of the land transmuted into marital property. The trial court also concluded that Wife was not entitled to an interest in the appreciation of the properties because she did not substantially contribute to their maintenance or increase in value. The trial court classified the marital residence—that being the improvement but not any of the land associated with the marital residence—as marital property. As for the tract Husband acquired during the marriage, the court ruled that it was Husband’s separate property because Husband purchased it with his separate funds. This appeal followed. Based on the parties’ treatment and use of some of the 197-acre tract on Highland Road as their marital residence, it is evident that the parties intended for some portion of the land to transmute into marital property. Therefore, we reverse the trial court’s determination that the entire 197-acre tract remained Husband’s separate property and remand for the trial court to identify that portion of the land the parties treated and used as part of their marital residence, classify that land as marital property, and determine its value. Based on this change of classification, the trial court should also consider whether the change in value necessitates a revision of the equitable division of the marital estate and, if so, enter judgment accordingly. In all other respects, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Robertson County Court of Appeals 08/16/19
Scripps Media, Inc., Et Al. v. Tennessee Department of Mental Health And Substance Abuse Services, Et Al.
M2018-02011-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Chief Judge D. Michael Swiney
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Anne C. Martin

This appeal concerns a request for public records. Phil Williams (“Mr. Williams”), a reporter, requested records from the Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services (“TDMHSAS”) and the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (“TBI”) (“the State,” collectively) concerning an alleged affair between two State officials that may have involved public funds. The State refused on the basis that the records were part of an ongoing criminal investigation. Mr. Williams and his employer, Scripps Media, Inc. (“Scripps”), (“Petitioners,” collectively) then filed a petition in the Chancery Court for Davidson County (“the Trial Court”) seeking the records via the Tennessee Public Records Act (“the TPRA”), Tenn. Code Ann. § 10-7-101 et seq. Before the petition was heard, the investigation ended and the State produced the records. The Trial Court found the public interest exception applied notwithstanding the petition’s mootness and determined that the records were exempted from disclosure by Tenn. R. Crim. P. 16. Petitioners appealed. As did the Trial Court, we find this to be a matter of public interest warranting resolution even though moot. We hold that non-investigative public records made in the ordinary course of business, capable of being accessed from their inception by citizens of Tennessee, do not become exempt from disclosure because of the initiation of a criminal investigation in which they become relevant. Finding the State’s legal argument reasonable although erroneous, we decline Petitioners’ request for attorney’s fees under the TPRA. We affirm, in part, and reverse, in part, the judgment of the Trial Court. 

Davidson County Court of Appeals 08/16/19
Joshua R. Starner v. State of Tennessee
M2018-01015-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Camille R. McMullen
Trial Court Judge: Judge William R. Goodman, III

The Petitioner, Joshua R. Starner, appeals the denial of post-conviction relief, arguing that he received ineffective assistance of trial counsel and that counsel’s actions deprived him of his right to testify at trial. We affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Montgomery County Court of Criminal Appeals 08/16/19
State of Tennessee v. Michael David Carter and Steven Edward Carter
M2018-01329-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert L. Holloway, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Dee David Gay

Following a jury trial, Michael David Carter (Michael Carter) was convicted of aggravated robbery and aggravated assault and Steven Edward Carter (Steven Carter) was convicted of facilitation of aggravated robbery and aggravated assault. Michael Carter was sentenced to twenty years for aggravated robbery, and Steven Carter was sentenced to nine years for facilitation of aggravated robbery. The trial court merged the aggravated assault convictions into the aggravated robbery convictions without imposing a sentence or entering a judgment of conviction for aggravated assault. On appeal, Defendants contend that: (1) the evidence presented at trial was insufficient to support their convictions; (2) the prosecutor improperly made a “Golden Rule” closing argument; and (3) the trial court erred in applying Tennessee Rules of Evidence 608 and 609 to exclude evidence of criminal charges pending against the victim at the time of trial. Michael Carter also contends that the trial court erred in sentencing him as a Range II offender and that his sentence was excessive. We remand for sentencing on the merged aggravated assault convictions and entry of a judgment of conviction for each Defendant pursuant to State v. Berry, 503 S.W.3d 360 (Tenn. 2015). We affirm the judgments of the trial court in all other respects.

Sumner County Court of Criminal Appeals 08/16/19
State of Tennessee v. Dedrick Lamont Lindsey
E2018-01502-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert L. Holloway, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Don W. Poole

Defendant, Dedrick Lamont Lindsey, appeals the trial court’s order revoking his probation and imposing his sentence. Defendant argues: (1) that the State failed to present “any substantial evidence” to support the trial court’s finding that Defendant violated his probation; (2) that the trial court erroneously admitted a witness’s recorded statement to police; and (3) that he received ineffective assistance of counsel at the probation revocation hearing. Following a thorough review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Hamilton County Court of Criminal Appeals 08/16/19
Daniel Harvey, et al. v. Shelby County, Tennessee, et al.
W2018-01747-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Carma Dennis McGee
Trial Court Judge: Judge Rhynette N. Hurd

Plaintiffs filed a complaint against multiple governmental entities for flood damages to their property. Each defendant filed a pre-trial motion to dismiss and/or a motion for summary judgment. The trial court granted judgment on the pleadings and summary judgment, finding that Plaintiffs’ claims were barred by the applicable statute of limitations. Plaintiffs appeal. For the reasons stated herein, the decision of the trial court is affirmed in part, vacated in part, and remanded for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 08/16/19
Carl Loverson v. State of Tennessee
W2018-00694-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Norma McGee Ogle
Trial Court Judge: Judge Lee V. Coffee

The Petitioner, Carl Loverson, filed a pro se “Petition for Post-Conviction Relief and/or Petition for Clerical Error, Ommission [sic] in Records,” alleging that, contrary to the trial court’s order, he was transported to the Tennessee Department of Correction instead of being released into a drug program. The post-conviction court summarily dismissed the petition as untimely and for failure to state a colorable claim for relief. The Petitioner appeals. Upon review, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 08/15/19
Javonte Thomas v. State of Tennessee
W2018-02171-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge James Curwood Witt
Trial Court Judge: Judge J. Robert Carter, Jr.

The petitioner, Javonte Thomas, appeals the denial of his petition for post-conviction relief, which petition challenged his conviction of first degree premeditated murder, alleging that he was deprived of the effective assistance of counsel. Discerning no error, we affirm the denial of post-conviction relief.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 08/15/19
State of Tennessee v. Benjamin Foust
E2017-02420-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge John Everett Williams
Trial Court Judge: Judge G. Scott Green

The Defendant, Benjamin Foust, was convicted of ten counts of felony murder, two counts of first degree premeditated murder, four counts of especially aggravated robbery, two counts of aggravated arson, and two counts of possession of a firearm while having a prior felony conviction involving the use of violence or force. The trial court’s merger of the various convictions resulted in two felony murder convictions, two especially aggravated robbery convictions, one aggravated arson conviction, and one firearm conviction. The trial court imposed an effective sentence of two consecutive terms of life imprisonment plus 105 years. On appeal, the Defendant contends that (1) the evidence is insufficient to support his convictions; (2) the trial court erred in failing to grant the Defendant’s motion to sever or bifurcate the firearm charges; (3) the trial court erred in admitting evidence of the Defendant’s drug use; (4) the trial court improperly admitted several autopsy photographs; (5) the trial court provided an improper answer to a question from the jury posed during deliberations; and (6) the trial court erred in sentencing the Defendant. We conclude that the trial court erred in ordering the parties to stipulate to the Defendant’s prior felony convictions and that the error was not harmless as to the firearm convictions. Accordingly, we reverse the Defendant’s firearm convictions and remand for a new trial as to those convictions. We otherwise affirm the trial court’s judgments.

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 08/15/19
Sedrick Darion Mitchell v. State of Tennessee
M2018-00975-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Kelly Thomas, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Forest A. Durard, Jr.

The Petitioner, Sedrick Darion Mitchell, appeals from the Bedford County Circuit Court’s denial of his petition for post-conviction relief. The Petitioner contends that his trial counsel was ineffective for not challenging the validity of the indictment. Discerning no error, we affirm the judgment of the post conviction court.

Bedford County Court of Criminal Appeals 08/15/19
Nicole Pamblanco v. State of Tennessee
M2018-01260-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Norma McGee Ogle
Trial Court Judge: Judge Jill Bartee Ayers

The Petitioner, Nicole Pamblanco, appeals the Montgomery County Circuit Court’s denial of her petition for post-conviction relief from her convictions of aggravated child neglect, a Class A felony, and reckless homicide, a Class E felony, and effective sentence of fifteen years. On appeal, the Petitioner contends that she received the ineffective assistance of counsel because trial counsel failed to call a psychologist who had evaluated her and prepared a report to testify on her behalf. Based upon the oral arguments, the record, and the parties’ briefs, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Montgomery County Court of Criminal Appeals 08/15/19
State of Tennessee v. Krysten Renae Glover
M2018-01410-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge John Everett Williams
Trial Court Judge: Judge Stella L. Hargrove

The Defendant, Krysten Renae Glover, entered an open guilty plea to one count of the sale of 0.5 grams or more of methamphetamine and one count of the sale of methamphetamine in an amount less than 0.5 grams. The trial court held a sentencing hearing and imposed an effective nine-year sentence to be served in confinement. The Defendant appeals, arguing that the trial court erred by denying her probation. We conclude that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in sentencing, and we affirm the judgments.

Wayne County Court of Criminal Appeals 08/15/19
State of Tennessee v. Quincy D. Scott
E2018-02271-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Norma McGee Ogle
Trial Court Judge: Judge Andrew M. Freiberg

The Appellant, Quincy D. Scott, appeals as of right from the Bradley County Criminal Court’s judgment revoking his probation. The State has filed a motion to affirm by memorandum opinion the judgment of the trial court. Following our review, we conclude that an opinion in this case would have no precedential value and affirm the judgment of the habeas corpus court pursuant to Rule 20 of the Rules of the Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals.

Bradley County Court of Criminal Appeals 08/15/19
State of Tennessee v. Karen Sarah Thomas, Alias
E2018-00353-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Kelly Thomas, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Steven W. Sword

The Defendant, Karen Sarah Thomas, alias, appeals her jury convictions for aggravated stalking. In this direct appeal, the Defendant alleges that the evidence was insufficient to support her convictions and that the trial court erred when it allowed the State to introduce evidence of an out-of-courtroom event that took place during the trial. Following our review of the record and the applicable authorities, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 08/15/19
Roosevelt Bigbee, Jr. v. Jonathan Lebo, Warden
W2019-00051-CCA-R3-HC
Authoring Judge: Judge Alan E. Glenn
Trial Court Judge: Judge Joe H. Walker, III

The pro se Petitioner, Roosevelt Bigbee, Jr., appeals the summary dismissal of his petition for writ of habeas corpus. Following our review, we affirm the summary dismissal of the petition for failure to state a cognizable claim for habeas corpus relief.

Lauderdale County Court of Criminal Appeals 08/14/19
State of Tennessee v. Anton Carlton
M2018-01474-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Camille R. McMullen
Trial Court Judge: Judge Royce Taylor

The Defendant, Anton Carlton, appeals the summary denial of his “Motion for An Amendment of the Judgment to Correct a Clerical Error.” He argues (1) the trial court abused its discretion when it determined that the corrected judgment of conviction entered on April 9, 2012, did not contain an oversight or omission, and (2) the corrected judgments of conviction entered on October 22, 2018, resulted in a material breach of his negotiated plea agreement. We affirm the judgment of the trial court but remand the case for entry of corrected judgment forms in Counts 6, 7, and 8 and for entry of an amended order of dismissal, wherein Counts 2, 3, 4, 5, 9, and 10 are dismissed.

Rutherford County Court of Criminal Appeals 08/14/19
Corey Bunton v. Sanderson Pipe Corp. Et Al.
M2018-01028-SC-R3-WC
Authoring Judge: Chief Justice Jeffery S. Bivins
Trial Court Judge: Judge Kenneth M. Switzer

The appeal has been referred to the Special Workers’ Compensation Appeals Panel for a hearing and a report of findings of fact and conclusions of law pursuant to Tennessee Supreme Court Rule 51. This case arises out of an injury sustained by Corey Bunton (“Employee”) while working at Sanderson Pipe Corporation (“Employer”).  Employee’s hand became trapped in a beller machine which resulted in Employee losing a finger and sustaining permanent damage to his hand.  Employee claimed he turned the machine off prior to placing his hand into the machine to clean a pipe.  However, Employer presented evidence challenging Employee’s claim that he turned off the machine.  Employer argued by failing to turn off the machine, Employee committed willful misconduct which barred any recovery.  The trial court found Employee did not turn off the machine and therefore committed willful misconduct.  Employee appealed arguing the trial court erred in its willful misconduct analysis.  Employer also cross-appealed arguing that Tennessee Compilation Rules and Regulations 0800-02-21-.7 (2016) is unconstitutional. We affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Workers Compensation Panel 08/14/19
James Ellison Rouse v. State of Tennessee
M2018-00926-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Norma McGee Ogle
Trial Court Judge: Judge David L. Allen

The Petitioner, James Ellison Rouse, appeals the Maury County Circuit Court’s denial of his petition for post-conviction relief from his two convictions of first degree murder and two convictions of attempted first degree murder and resulting effective sentence of two terms of life without the possibility of parole plus forty-two years. The post-conviction court ruled that the petition was time-barred. On appeal, the Petitioner contends that his petition was timely because he filed it within one year of Montgomery v. Louisiana, 136 S. Ct. 718 (2016), and Jacob Brown v. State, No. W2015-00887-CCA-R3-PC, 2016 WL 1562981 (Tenn. Crim. App. at Jackson, Apr. 15, 2016). Based upon the oral arguments, the record, and the parties’ briefs, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Maury County Court of Criminal Appeals 08/14/19
Anthony Leslie v. State of Tennessee, et al.
M2018-00856-CCA-R3-HC
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas T. Woodall
Trial Court Judge: Judge Royce Taylor

Petitioner, Anthony Leslie, appeals from the dismissal of his petition for writ of habeas corpus relief. Petitioner alleged that an amended judgment of the Davidson County Criminal Court adding a provision requiring community supervision for life is void because it was entered after his sentence had expired. Upon consideration of the record and the applicable authorities, we reverse the judgment of the habeas corpus court and grant habeas corpus relief to Petitioner. The amended judgment of the Davidson County Criminal Court is vacated, and Petitioner shall not be subject to community supervision for life in Davidson County Criminal Court case number 99-D-2865.

Rutherford County Court of Criminal Appeals 08/14/19
In Re C.M. Et Al.
E2018-02108-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge Charles D. Susano, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Dwight E. Stokes

M.O. (mother) and K.M. (father) appeal from the trial court’s order terminating their parental rights with respect to C.M. and M.M. (the children). The court determined that clear and convincing evidence supported multiple grounds for terminating mother and father’s parental rights. By the same quantum of proof, the court determined that termination is in the best interest of the children. We affirm.

Sevier County Court of Appeals 08/14/19
Milan Suppy Chain Solutions, Inc. f/k/a Milan Express, Inc. v. Navistar, Inc., et al.
W2018-00084-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Arnold B. Goldin
Trial Court Judge: Judge Roy B. Morgan, Jr.

This appeal involves a jury verdict in a commercial dispute pertaining to the quality of trucks purchased by the plaintiff, Milan Supply Chain Solutions, Inc. Contending that the purchased trucks were defective, Milan filed suit against Navistar, Inc. and Volunteer International, Inc., alleging various legal claims, including breach of contract, violation of the Tennessee Consumer Protection Act, and fraud. Although some of Milan’s claims were dismissed prior to trial, the remaining fraud and Tennessee Consumer Protection Act claims were tried before a jury. Defendant Volunteer International, Inc. was granted a directed verdict upon the conclusion of Milan’s proof and later awarded attorney’s fees, but a monetary judgment for both compensatory and punitive damages was entered against Navistar, Inc. The parties now appeal, raising a plethora of issues for our consideration. For the reasons stated herein, including our conclusion that the asserted fraud claims are barred by the economic loss doctrine, we reverse the judgment awarded to Milan. We affirm, however, the trial court’s award of attorney’s fees in favor of Volunteer International, Inc.

Madison County Court of Appeals 08/14/19
In Re Estate of Rickie Charles Vaughn - Dissenting in part
W2018-01600-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Kenny Armstrong
Trial Court Judge: Judge Kathleen N. Gomes

I must respectfully dissent from the majority’s decision that Appellant’s April 12, 2018, post-judgment motion should be treated as a Tennessee Rule of Civil Procedure 59.04 motion to alter or amend the judgment so as to extend the time for filing his notice of appeal under Tennessee Rule of Appellate Procedure 4(b).

Shelby County Court of Appeals 08/14/19
In Re Estate of Rickie Charles Vaughn
W2018-01600-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Arnold B. Goldin
Trial Court Judge: Judge Kathleen N. Gomes

An alleged child of the decedent sought to establish paternity and thereby inherit through intestate succession. The probate court concluded that the child should be excluded as an heir as a result of his failure to timely assert a claim. We affirm.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 08/14/19
State of Tennessee v. James R. Wilson
M2019-00369-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert L. Holloway, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Steve R. Dozier

James R. Wilson, Defendant, pled guilty to two counts of sale of more than five grams of a Schedule II controlled substance in case number 97-D-2596. Defendant received concurrent sentences of ten years with release eligibility after service of thirty percent of the sentence; Defendant was to serve one year in confinement and the remainder on community corrections. Defendant filed a Rule 36.1 motion and alleged that his sentences were illegal because he did not receive a Momon colloquy or sentencing hearing. The trial court found that the sentences had expired and summarily dismissed the motion for failure to state a colorable claim. We affirm.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 08/13/19
Frederick Leon Tucker v. State of Tennessee
M2018-01196-CCA-R3-ECN
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas T. Woodall
Trial Court Judge: Judge Monte Watkins

Petitioner, Fredrick Leon Tucker, appeals the denial of his petition for a writ of error coram nobis based upon newly discovered evidence. We find that the error coram nobis court, in violation of Tennessee Supreme Court Rule 10B, failed to rule on Petitioner’s motion to recuse before entering an order denying the petition. Therefore, we vacate the order denying the petition for a writ of error coram nobis and remand for consideration of the petition. Furthermore, in order to avoid even the possibility of an appearance of impropriety, the original error coram nobis judge is recused from further proceedings in this case.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 08/12/19