Court Opinions

Format: 01/20/2017
Format: 01/20/2017
In Re Jakob., et al
M2016-00391-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge Arnold B. Goldin
Trial Court Judge: Judge Donna Scott Davenport

Upon petition of the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services (“the Department”), the trial court terminated the parental rights of Mother. We reverse the trial court’s determination that Mother willfully failed to support her children prior to her incarceration and its determination that she failed to substantially comply with the requirements of the family permanency plans created in this case. However, clear and convincing evidence supports the remaining grounds for termination relied upon by the trial court, as well as the trial court’s determination that the termination of Mother’s parental rights is in the children’s best interest. Accordingly, we affirm the termination of Mother’s parental rights.

Rutherford County Court of Appeals 12/15/16
Linda K. Guthrie v. Rutherford County, Tennessee, et al.
M2015-01718-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Richard H. Dinkins
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Howard W. Wilson

Plaintiff, a special education assistant, was injured at work when two middle school students were roughhousing in a school hallway and one was pushed into her, causing her to fall. She sued Rutherford County for negligence, pursuant to the Tennessee Governmental Tort Liability Act, alleging that, inter alia, her injuries were caused by the County’s failure to properly supervise the students, whom she also sued. After a bench trial, the court rendered judgment in favor of the defendants. Plaintiff appeals the judgment with respect to the County, contending that the court erred in holding that the County was immune from suit, that the evidence preponderated against certain findings of the court, and that the court erred in concluding that the County’s agents had not acted negligently. Discerning no error, we affirm the judgment.

Rutherford County Court of Appeals 12/15/16
Andrew Hirt, et al. v. Metropolitan Board Of Zoning Appeals Of The Metropolitan Government Of Nashville And Davidson County Tennessee
M2015-02511-COA-R3-cV
Authoring Judge: Judge Arnold B. Goldin
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Ellen H. Lyle

This appeal concerns a local zoning board’s denial of a permit to replace an old billboard with a new digital billboard. After the zoning board denied the permit for the new billboard, the applicants who had requested the permit filed a petition for a writ of certiorari in chancery court. The chancery court found no basis to disturb the zoning board’s denial of a permit based upon its review of the administrative record. Although the applicants have appealed from the chancery court’s decision, we conclude that we cannot reach the merits of their appeal. Because the applicants did not file a petition for a writ of certiorari that complied with Tennessee Code Annotated section 27-8-106 within sixty days of the zoning board’s order, we conclude that the chancery court was without subject matter jurisdiction to review the zoning board’s actions. We accordingly vacate the chancery court’s order and dismiss this case.    

Davidson County Court of Appeals 12/15/16
Charles T. Hartley v. State of Tennessee
E2015-01445-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas T. Woodall
Trial Court Judge: Judge Donald Ray Elledge

The petitioner, Charles T. Hartley, appeals the denial of his petition for post-conviction relief. The petitioner, originally indicted for rape of a child, entered an Alford plea to the lesser offense of attempted aggravated sexual battery and received a sentence of ten years to be served on supervised probation. The petitioner filed a petition for post-conviction relief arguing: (1) the judgments in his case were illegal because they did not reflect the sentence of mandatory supervision for life; and (2) he received ineffective assistance of counsel. The post-conviction court dismissed the petition finding that it was barred by the statute of limitations and also ruled that if an appellate court concluded that the petition was not barred, that the petitioner received effective assistance of counsel. On appeal, the petitioner argues that the trial court erred when it dismissed his petition. Following our review, the judgment of the post-conviction court is affirmed.

Anderson County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/15/16
In re La'Trianna W., et al.
E2016-01379-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge Kenny Armstrong
Trial Court Judge: Judge Timothy E. Irwin

This is a termination of parental rights case. Appellant/Mother appeals the trial court’s termination of her parental rights to two minor children on the ground of mental incompetence and on its finding that termination of Appellant’s parental rights is in the children’s best interests. Discerning no error, we affirm.

Knox County Court of Appeals 12/15/16
K.G.R., by and through his parents, Rachel Riffe and Jeffrey v. Union City School District, et al.
W2016-01056-COA-R9-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Kenny Armstrong
Trial Court Judge: Judge Jeff Parham

This is a negligence case involving the alleged sexual assault of a 13-year-old special education student by another 13-year-old special education student in a school bathroom. The trial court determined that the Appellant school district was not entitled to summary judgment as a matter of law because there was a question of fact as to whether the incident was foreseeable. We conclude that there is no dispute of material fact and that summary judgment in favor of the school district should be granted. Reversed and remanded.

Obion County Court of Appeals 12/14/16
State of Tennessee v. Sherry Ann Claffey
W2016-00356-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert L. Holloway, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Joe H. Walker, III

Sherry Ann Claffey (“the Defendant”) entered a no contest plea to two counts of vehicular homicide as a result of reckless conduct. Following a hearing, the trial court denied judicial diversion, sentenced the Defendant to concurrent terms of five years on each count, and ordered the Defendant to serve 200 days in confinement and to serve the balance of her sentence on probation. On appeal, the Defendant argues that because the trial court failed to properly consider the factors  applicable to judicial diversion, no presumption of reasonableness should apply to the trial court’s denial of judicial diversion, and this court should conduct a de novo review of the record and grant judicial diversion. After a review of the record and applicable law, we conclude that because the trial court unduly considered irrelevant facts concerning the death  of victims and facts not supported by the proof concerning the Defendant’s prescription drug usage to support the three factors on which it relied to deny judicial diversion, no presumption of reasonableness applies. After reviewing the record de novo, we hold that judicial diversion should be granted to the Defendant and reverse the judgments of the trial court.

Tipton County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/14/16
Harvey Eugene Taylor v. State of Tennessee
M2016-00933-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert W. Wedemeyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Monte Watkins

The trial court summarily dismissed the Appellant’s “motion for new trial or evidentiary hearing on the grounds of ineffective assistance of counsel.”  The trial court properly treated the pleading as a subsequent petition seeking post-conviction relief and denied the same without a hearing.  The trial court’s ruling is hereby affirmed.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/14/16
Charlesan Woodgett, et al v. John R. Vaughan, Jr., et al
M2016-00250-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Brandon O. Gibson
Trial Court Judge: Judge Robert L. Jones

This appeal arises from a jury trial. The plaintiff filed a premises liability suit against the defendant-homeowners after she allegedly fell and sustained injuries while viewing the defendants’ home as a prospective buyer. After a two-day jury trial, the jury returned a verdict in favor of the defendant-homeowners, finding that they were not at fault for the plaintiff’s injuries. The plaintiff raises numerous issues on appeal. We affirm.      

Maury County Court of Appeals 12/13/16
State of Tennessee v. Angela Ayers
W2014-00781-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert H. Montgomery, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge J. Robert Carter, Jr.

The Tennessee Supreme Court has remanded this case for reconsideration in light of State v. Willie Duncan, --- S.W.3d. ---, No. W2013-02554-SC-R11-CD, 2016 WL 6024007 (Tenn. Oct. 14, 2016). See State v. Angela Ayers, No. W2014-00781-CCA-R3-CD, 2015 WL 4366633 (Tenn. Crim. App. July 16, 2015) (“Ayers I”), perm. app. filed, case remanded (Tenn. Oct. 31, 2016). Relevant to the current remand, this court concluded in the previous appeal that the State‟s failures to identify the underlying dangerous felony in the indictment count related to employing a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony and to charge a separate offense that was an enumerated dangerous felony rendered the indictment count relative to the employing a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony defective. Upon further review, we conclude that in lieu of identifying the enumerated dangerous felony in the indictment count charging employing a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony, the indictment must charge separately at least one enumerated dangerous felony in order to provide a defendant with adequate notice of the charged offense. Under the circumstances in this case, we conclude that the count charging employing a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony is defective because it failed to provide the Defendant adequate notice of the charged offense. We affirm the judgments of the trial court relative to the voluntary manslaughter and false report convictions, but we reverse the employing a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony judgment, vacate the conviction, and dismiss the charge.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/13/16
State of Tennessee v. Mark Brian Dobson a/k/a Mark B. Martin
M2015-00818-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Norma McGee Ogle
Trial Court Judge: Judge Mark J. Fishburn

A Davidson County Criminal Court Jury convicted the Appellant, Mark Brian Dobson, of five counts of especially aggravated kidnapping, one count of aggravated burglary, and one count of employing a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony.  After a sentencing hearing, he received an effective seventy-year sentence.  On appeal, the Appellant contends that (1) the evidence is insufficient to support the convictions, (2) the trial court improperly denied his motion for a continuance, (3) the trial court erred by admitting into evidence a recorded telephone call in which his mother mentioned a stolen firearm, (4) the indictment for the charge of employing a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony was defective for failing to name the underlying dangerous felony, (5) the trial court improperly instructed the jury on employing a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony, and (6) his effective sentence is excessive.  Based upon the record and the parties’ briefs, we conclude that the Appellant’s sentence for employing a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony in count eleven must be modified and remand the case to the trial court for correction of that judgment and to correct a clerical error on the judgment for count twelve.  The judgments of the trial court are affirmed in all other respects.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/13/16
State of Tennessee v. Hayden Daniel Rutherford
M2016-00014-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge James Curwood Witt, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Thomas W. Graham

The defendant, Hayden Daniel Rutherford, appeals his Sequatchie County Circuit Court guilty-pleaded conviction of robbery, claiming that the trial court erred by ordering that he serve his six-year sentence in confinement.  Discerning no error, we affirm.

Sequatchie County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/13/16
In Re: A-River City Bail Bond, Inc.
W2015-01578-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas T. Woodall
Trial Court Judge: Judge Lee V. Coffee

The appellant, A-River City Bail Bond, Inc., appeals its suspension from writing bonds in the Thirtieth Judicial District due to its failure to comply with the local rules. The appellant argues that a local rule requiring the posting of at least $75,000 in cash or certificate of deposit with the Criminal Court Clerk does not apply to it and that the trial court failed to provide it with procedural due process when suspending its ability to write bonds. Based upon the record and the parties’ briefs, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/12/16
Jimmy Newell v. Tamara Ford, Warden
W2016-00941-CCA-R3-HC
Authoring Judge: Judge John Everett Williams
Trial Court Judge: Judge H. Walker, III

The Petitioner, Jimmy Newell, appeals the dismissal of his habeas corpus petition in which he challenged the legality of his two convictions for theft of property between $1,000 and $10,000 and his effective four-year sentence concurrently and with parole eligibility after service of thirty percent of his sentence. After a thorough review of the record, we conclude that the petition was properly dismissed, and we affirm the judgment of the habeas corpus court.

Hardeman County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/12/16
Heather McMurry v. State of Tennessee
E2016-00158-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Norma McGee Ogle
Trial Court Judge: Judge Steven W. Sword

The Petitioner, Heather McMurry, appeals the post-conviction court's denial of her petition for post-conviction relief from her convictions of numerous drug offenses within 1,000 feet of a school zone and resulting effective twelve-year sentence with a mandatory eight years to be served in confinement. On appeal, the Petitioner contends that she received the ineffective assistance of trial counsel. Based upon the record and the parties' briefs, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/12/16
Tracy Vann Knocke v. James Joseph Knocke
E2016-01347-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas R. Frierson, II
Trial Court Judge: Judge Lawrence Howard Puckett

The Final Judgment of Divorce entered in this case reserved the issue of the division of any deficiency indebtedness resulting from the foreclosure of the parties’ marital residence prior to the time of trial.  The Permanent Parenting Plan, incorporated into the Final Judgment, also indicated that the precise amount of child support, as a portion of the total support payment ordered by the trial court, had yet to be determined.  As such, it is clear that the order appealed from does not resolve all issues raised in the proceedings below.   As a result of this jurisdictional defect, we lack jurisdiction to consider this appeal. 

Bradley County Court of Appeals 12/12/16
Rodney Glover v. State of Tennessee
M2016-00619-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert W. Wedemeyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge William R. Goodman, III

The Petitioner, Rodney Glover, was convicted of conspiracy to commit aggravated burglary, aggravated burglary, conspiracy to commit theft of property over $10,000, aggravated robbery, aggravated kidnapping, and theft of property under $500 and was sentenced to fifty years of incarceration to be served at 100%. This Court affirmed the judgments and sentence on appeal. State v. Rodney Glover, No. M2011-00854-CCA-R3-CD, 2012 WL 1071716, at *1 (Tenn. Crim. App., at Nashville, Mar. 28, 2012), no perm. app. filed. In 2013, the Petitioner filed a petition for post-conviction relief, claiming that he received the ineffective assistance of counsel. We affirm the post-conviction court’s judgment.

Montgomery County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/12/16
State of Tennessee v. Candace Renee Bennett
M2016-00287-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert W. Wedemeyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Seth Norman

The Defendant, Candace Renee Bennett, pleaded guilty to attempted aggravated child neglect in exchange for an agreed eight-year sentence. The trial court ordered that the Defendant serve her sentence on probation and that her sentence run concurrently with a sentence in another case. The Defendant filed a motion pursuant to Tennessee Rule of Criminal Procedure 36.1 contending that her sentence was illegal. She asked to withdraw her guilty plea and have the charges dismissed. The trial court denied her motion. On appeal, the Defendant contends that her sentence is illegal because it is not authorized by, and directly contravenes the criminal responsibility statute. After review, we affirm the trial court’s judgment.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/12/16
Jana Maria Deboe Howard Sisco v. Robert Glynn Howard
M2015-01928-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Chief Judge D. Michael Swiney
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Laurence M. McMillan, Jr.

Jana Maria Deboe Howard Sisco (“Mother”) appeals the March 31, 2015 order of the Circuit Court for Montgomery County (“the Trial Court”) modifying the Permanent Parenting Plan entered when Mother and Robert Glynn Howard (“Father”) divorced. Mother raises issues regarding whether a material change in circumstances justifying a modification had occurred and, if so, whether a modification was in the best interest of the parties’ minor children. We find and hold that the March 31, 2015 order fails to comply with Tenn. R. Civ. P. 52.01. We, therefore, vacate the March 31, 2015 order and remand this case to the Trial Court to make specific findings of fact and conclusions of law in compliance with Tenn. R. Civ. P. 52.01. 

Montgomery County Court of Appeals 12/12/16
Martrell Holloway v. State of Tennessee
W2015-01402-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas T. Woodall
Trial Court Judge: Judge J. Robert Carter, Jr.

Petitioner, Martrell Holloway, appeals the post-conviction court’s denial of post-conviction relief following an evidentiary hearing. The petition challenged Petitioner’s convictions for two counts of especially aggravated kidnapping, three counts of aggravated robbery, and one count of especially aggravated robbery. The convictions resulted from guilty pleas pursuant to a negotiated plea agreement with the Shelby County District Attorney’s Office which was approved by the trial  court for a total sentence of 18 years. After review of the record and the parties’ briefs, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/09/16
American Mining Insurance Company v. Terry H. Campbell
M2015-01478-SC-R3-WC
Authoring Judge: Senior Judge William B. Acree, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Jeffrey F. Stewart

In 1992, Terry Campbell (“Employee”) suffered injuries to his lumbar and cervical spine as a result of a workplace accident. In 1998, the trial court awarded permanent and total disability benefits and ordered the employer’s insurer, American Mining Insurance Company (“Insurer”), to provide medical treatment in accordance with Tennessee Code Annotated section 50-6-204. Dr. Gregory Ball was Employee’s treating physician. In 2008, and again in 2010, Employee filed contempt petitions alleging Insurer failed to provide medical treatment recommended by Dr. Ball. On each occasion, the trial court found in favor of Employee. In 2013, Insurer filed a petition, asserting Dr. Ball’s treatment was neither reasonable nor necessary and seeking the removal of Dr. Ball as Employee’s physician. The trial court denied the petition and awarded attorney fees to Employee. Insurer appealed, asserting the trial court erred by denying its petition and awarding attorney fees. The Supreme Court referred this appeal 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. We affirm the judgment.

Grundy County Workers Compensation Panel 12/09/16
William Lane Lanier v. Corie J. Lanier
M2014-02293-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Richard H. Dinkins
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor J. B. Cox

The Mother and Father of three children were divorced in 2007; in the parenting plan Father was designated primary residential parent, and Mother and Father received equal parenting time. Five years after entry of the plan, the trial court found a material change in circumstances with respect to the oldest child; determined that modification of the parenting plan was in her best interest; and reduced Mother’s parenting time with that child. Seven months later, Mother filed a petition to modify the plan; Father answered and filed a counter-petition for contempt and modification of the parenting plan based on changed circumstances. A hearing was held on both petitions and the trial court entered an order which, inter alia, gave Father sole decision-making responsibility with respect to each of the children and reduced Mother’s parenting time. Both parties appeal, raising numerous issues. We vacate that portion of the judgment that sets the parenting time during the children’s vacation schedule and remand this issue for further consideration; in all other respects we affirm the judgment.    

Marshall County Court of Appeals 12/09/16
Jeremy David Parvin v. Jackie Ladean Parvin - dissenting in part
E2016-00549-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Andy D. Bennett
Trial Court Judge: L. Marie Williams

I fully concur in the majority's opinion with one exception—I would grant Wife's request for attorney's fees on appeal. I respectfully dissent on this one issue.

Hamilton County Court of Appeals 12/09/16
Sheddrick Harris v. State of Tennessee
E2016-01573-CCA-R3-HC
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert H. Montgomery, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Stacy L. Street

The Petitioner, Sheddrick Harris, appeals the Johnson County Criminal Court’s summary dismissal of his petition for a writ of habeas corpus from his 2010 first degree murder and especially aggravated robbery convictions and his effective sentence of life without the possibility of parole plus sixty years. The Petitioner contends that the habeas corpus court erred by denying relief because the trial court judge was without jurisdiction to preside over his trial after signing the search warrant executed by the police. We affirm the judgment of the habeas corpus court.

Johnson County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/09/16
State of Tennessee v. Jeffrey Odom
M2015-02040-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge John Everett Williams
Trial Court Judge: Judge David M. Bragg

The Defendant, Jeffrey Odom, appeals the trial court’s dismissal of his motion to correct an illegal sentence pursuant to Tennessee Rule of Criminal Procedure 36.1 due to the Defendant’s failure to appear at the scheduled hearing.  Upon reviewing the record and the applicable law, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Rutherford County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/09/16