Court Opinions

Format: 05/22/2020
Format: 05/22/2020
Hertz Knoxville One, LLC v. EdisonLearning, Inc.
E2019-00267-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge John W. McClarty
Trial Court Judge: Judge William T. Ailor

This is a breach of contract action involving a commercial lease. The plaintiff filed suit for non-payment of rent. The defendant claimed that it was not liable because it provided notice of early termination pursuant to the terms of the contract. The plaintiff moved for summary judgment, claiming that notice was not provided within the time set forth in the contract. The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of the plaintiff. We affirm.

Knox County Court of Appeals 04/20/20
Brandon Blount v. State of Tennessee
W2019-00832-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Timothy L. Easter
Trial Court Judge: Judge Paula L. Skahan

Brandon Blount, Petitioner, was convicted of one count of aggravated burglary acting in concert with two or more other persons and possession of a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony after a jury trial. He was sentenced to an effective sentence of eleven years. Petitioner’s convictions and sentences were affirmed on direct appeal. See State v. Brandon Blount, No. W2015-00747-CCA-R3-CD, 2016 WL 3131355 (Tenn. Crim. App. May 26, 2016), perm. app. denied (Tenn. Sept. 26, 2016). Petitioner subsequently sought post-conviction relief on the basis of ineffective assistance of counsel. After a hearing, the post-conviction court denied relief. Petitioner appeals, arguing that the post-conviction court improperly denied post-conviction relief. Because we determine that Petitioner has failed to establish that trial counsel was ineffective, we affirm the judgment of the criminal court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/17/20
Ercil K. Gate-Rayford v. Hilton Hall, Jr., Warden
W2019-01987-CCA-R3-HC
Authoring Judge: Judge Camille R. McMullen
Trial Court Judge: Judge Joe H. Walker, III

The Petitioner, Ercil K. Gates-Rayford, appeals the denial of his petition for writ of habeas corpus. The State has filed a motion asking this Court to affirm pursuant to Court of Criminal Appeals Rule 20. Said motion is hereby granted.

Hardeman County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/17/20
Patrick Lewis Laforce v. State of Tennessee
E2019-603-CCA-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Norma McGee Ogle
Trial Court Judge: Judge Gary McKenzie

The Petitioner, Patrick Lewis LaForce, appeals as of right from the Cumberland County Criminal Court’s order summarily denying his petition for post-conviction relief as untimely. 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 post-conviction court pursuant to Rule 20 of the Rules of the Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals.

Cumberland County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/17/20
CRAIG DEWAYNE MASSEY v. HEIDI WADE MASSEY
M2019-00294-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Richard H. Dinkins
Trial Court Judge: Judge Barry R. Tidwell

A father appeals the modification of a parenting plan, contending that the circuit court lacked subject matter jurisdiction to the modify the plan because the mother’s petition raised allegations that the children were abused and neglected, which the juvenile court had exclusive jurisdiction to hear. Concluding that the circuit court retained subject matter jurisdiction over the post-divorce petition, we affirm the judgment.

Rutherford County Circuit, Criminal & Chancery Courts 04/17/20
State of Tennessee v. Todd Alan Schmeling
M2019-00474-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Alan E. Glenn
Trial Court Judge: Judge Larry B. Stanley, Jr.

The pro se Defendant, Todd Alan Schmeling, was convicted by a Warren County Circuit Court jury of facilitation of possession of .5 grams or more of methamphetamine with intent to deliver, a Class C felony; facilitation of possession of a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony, a Class E felony; simple possession of marijuana, a Class A misdemeanor; and possession of drug paraphernalia, a Class A misdemeanor, and was sentenced to an effective term of eight years as a Range II offender in the Department of Correction. On appeal, the Defendant argues that: (1) his due process rights were violated by his lack of access to updated law books in preparation for trial and appeal; (2) he was improperly prosecuted on the possession of a firearm charge; (3) Lieutenant Mara committed “official misconduct” and “official oppression” by a statement he made during the traffic stop; (4) the trial court erred in denying his motion for production of Lieutenant Mara’s statements; (5) the evidence is insufficient to sustain his conviction for facilitation of possession of .5 grams or more of methamphetamine with intent to deliver; (6) his rights to due process and exculpatory evidence were violated vis-à-vis the testing of the drugs by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (“TBI”); (7) the State made an improper closing argument; (8) the trial court committed plain error in its jury instruction on possession of a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony; (9) the notices of enhanced punishment filed by the State were deficient; and (10) the trial court erred in sentencing him. After review, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Warren County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/17/20
Robert F. Clark v. Tennessee Farmers Mutual Insurance Company
E2019-00746-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Michael Swiney
Trial Court Judge: Judge David R. Duggan

This appeal arises from an action filed by Robert F. Clark (“Plaintiff”), seeking a declaratory judgment and damages against Tennessee Farmers Mutual Insurance Company (“Tennessee Farmers”). Plaintiff applied for a homeowner’s insurance policy with Tennessee Farmers upon his purchase of improved real property. The effective date of the policy was to begin on May 29, 2013, the original date of the closing for the sale of the property. The closing of the real property was rescheduled to an earlier date. A leak occurred after the actual closing on the property but before the date of the original closing and the stated effective date of the homeowner’s insurance policy. Determining that Tennessee Farmers had not been notified of the change and that Plaintiff had signed an authorization for work on the property, the Trial Court granted Tennessee Farmers’ motion for summary judgment. We affirm the Trial Court’s finding that the leak occurred prior to the effective date of the policy. However, we reverse the Trial Court’s grant of summary judgment upon our determination that genuine issues of material fact exist to preclude summary judgment on other issues.

Jefferson County Court of Appeals 04/17/20
Ken Smith Auto Parts v. Michael F. Thomas
E2018-00928-SC-R11-CV
Authoring Judge: Justice Holly Kirby
Trial Court Judge: Judge Ward Jeffrey Hollingsworth

We granted permission to appeal in order to clarify the procedure circuit courts must follow when an original defendant in general sessions court appeals an adverse general sessions judgment to circuit court but then fails to appear for the de novo circuit court trial to prosecute his appeal.  In this case, when the defendant/appellant failed to appear in circuit court to prosecute his appeal, the circuit court dismissed the appeal and remanded the case to the general sessions court for execution of the general sessions judgment.  We hold this was error.  Under Tennessee Code Annotated sections 27-5-106 and -107, the circuit court should have instead entered its own default judgment against the defendant/appellant in the amount of the general sessions judgment, subject to execution in the circuit court, and assessed costs against the defendant/appellant and his sureties.  We also hold that, after the circuit court dismissed the appeal and remanded to general sessions court, the circuit court had subject matter jurisdiction under Rules 59 and 60 of the Tennessee Rules of Civil Procedure to grant the defendant/appellant’s timely motion to set aside its prior order.  The decision to grant or deny the defendant/appellant’s post-judgment motion was within the circuit court’s discretion.  Accordingly, we affirm the decision of the Court of Appeals.  

Hamilton County Supreme Court 04/17/20
State of Tennessee v. Floyd Pete Lynch
E2019-00195-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert H. Montgomery, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Alex E. Pearson

The Defendant, Floyd Pete Lynch, was convicted by a Hancock County Criminal Court jury of violating the sexual offender registry, a Class E felony.  See T.C.A. § 40-39-208 (2018).  He received a sentence of four years’ confinement.  On appeal, the Defendant contends that the evidence was insufficient to support his conviction.  We affirm the judgment of the trial court. 

Hancock County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/17/20
State of Tennessee v. Edward Dean
W2018-01363-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Alan E. Glenn
Trial Court Judge: Judge Paula L. Skahan

The Defendant, Edward Dean, was convicted by a Shelby County Criminal Court jury of attempted second degree murder, a Class B felony; employing a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony, a Class C felony, and unlawful possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, a Class C felony. He was sentenced by the trial court as a Range I offender to twelve years at 30% for the attempted second degree murder conviction, ten years at 100% for the employment of a firearm conviction, and six years at 30% for the unlawful possession of a firearm conviction. The trial court ordered that the sentences be served consecutively, for an effective sentence of twenty-eight years in the Department of Correction. On appeal, the Defendant challenges the sufficiency of the evidence in support of his attempted second degree murder and unlawful possession of a firearm convictions and argues that the trial court erred in denying his motion to suppress his statement to police, in limiting the testimony of a defense witness physician, in failing to give the jury an instruction on diminished capacity, and in failing to give sufficient weight to mitigating factors in sentencing. Following our review, we affirm the judgments in Counts 1 and 2 but reverse the judgement in Count 3.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/17/20
State of Tennessee v. Kevin E. Trent
E2018-02239-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert H. Montgomery
Trial Court Judge: Judge E. Shayne Sexton

The Defendant, Kevin E. Trent, was convicted in 2015 upon his guilty plea of vehicular homicide by intoxication, a Class B felony.  See T.C.A. § 39-13-213 (2010).  The Defendant pleaded guilty as a Range I, standard offender and agreed to an eight-year sentence.  The manner of service of his sentence was reserved for the trial court’s determination.  On appeal, the Defendant contends that the trial court erred by imposing incarceration rather than an alternative sentence.  We reverse the judgment of the trial court and remand the case for the entry of an amended judgment reflecting the sentence of split confinement of time served and the remainder on probation.  Upon remand, the trial court is to determine the appropriate conditions of probation. 

Claiborne County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/17/20
In Re Daisy A.
E2019-00561-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Richard H. Dinkins
Trial Court Judge: Judge Brad Lewis Davidson

A mother whose parental rights to her daughter were terminated appeals the court’s best interest determination. Upon our review of the evidence, we affirm the trial court’s holdings that clear and convincing evidence existed to sustain three grounds for termination and that termination is in the child’s best interest.

Cocke County Court of Appeals 04/17/20
John Alan Chapman v. State of Tennessee
M2019-00429-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge J. Ross Dyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Thomas W. Graham

The petitioner, John Alan Chapman, appeals the denial of his post-conviction petition, arguing the post-conviction court erred in finding he received the effective assistance of counsel at trial. After our review of the record, briefs, and applicable law, we affirm the denial of the petition.

Grundy County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/17/20
Michelle A. Morel v. Christopher R. Nochera
M2019-00347-COA-R3-JV
Authoring Judge: Judge Arnold B. Goldin
Trial Court Judge: Judge Sharon Guffee

Mother sought a judgment for child support arrears tracing back to January 2010. Relief was denied when it was determined that a prior order suspending child support in January 2010 had been a final order. Having determined that the order suspending child support was not a final order and was entered in error, we hereby reverse the dismissal of the case and remand for further proceedings.

Williamson County Juvenile & Family Courts 04/17/20
State of Tennessee v. Christopher Ray Rickman
W2019-00778-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Alan E. Glenn
Trial Court Judge: Judge J. Weber McCraw

The Defendant, Christopher Ray Rickman, pleaded guilty to the offense of possession with intent to deliver .5 grams or more of methamphetamine, a Schedule II controlled substance. As a condition of his plea, the Defendant expressly preserved a certified question of law pursuant to Rule 37(b)(2)(A) of the Tennessee Rules of Criminal Procedure, stemming from his denied motion to suppress. After thorough review, we conclude that the certified question does not meet the requirements of Rule 37(b)(2)(A) and State v. Preston, 759 S.W.2d 647 (Tenn. 1988), and, as a result, this court is without jurisdiction to consider the appeal. Accordingly, the appeal is dismissed.

McNairy County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/16/20
IN RE ESTATE OF JOHN R. FARMER
M2019-01335-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge J. Steven Stafford
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Laurence M. McMillan, Jr.

Appellant challenged the trial court’s ruling that determined when interest began to accrue on a promissory note. Appellant argues that the trial court issued a sua sponte ruling without allowing additional evidence to be presented. Because Appellant failed to meet its burden to show reversible error, we affirm the trial court’s ruling.

Robertson County Circuit, Criminal & Chancery Courts 04/16/20
State of Tennessee v. Shermond Dewayne Dillard, Jr. - Concur in Part
M2018-02268-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Norma McGee Ogle
Trial Court Judge: Judge Angelita Blackshear Dalton

I join the majority in affirming the defendant’s conviction of aggravated robbery and ten-year sentence, but I write separately to dissent from the majority’s conclusion that the trial court did not err by allowing testimony about the stolen rental car.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/16/20
State of Tennessee v. Shermond Dewayne Dillard, Jr.
M2018-02268-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge J. Ross Dyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Angelita Blackshear Dalton

A Davidson County jury convicted the defendant, Shermond Dewayne Dillard, Jr., of aggravated robbery, for which he received a
ten-year sentence. On appeal, the defendant argues the trial court should have granted a new trial based on the admission of irrelevant and unfairly prejudicial testimony and improper closing argument by the State. The defendant also contends the trial court erred in sentencing him. After reviewing the record and considering the applicable law, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/16/20
James Snipes v. State of Tennessee
W2018-02225-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Norma McGee Ogle
Trial Court Judge: Judge Glenn Ivy Wright

The Petitioner, James Snipes, appeals the Shelby County Criminal Court’s denial of his petition for post-conviction relief, seeking relief from his conviction of first degree felony murder and resulting life sentence. On appeal, the Petitioner contends that he received the ineffective assistance of trial counsel and that he is entitled to a second post-conviction evidentiary hearing due to post-conviction counsel’s deficient performance at the first hearing. Based upon the record and the parties’ briefs, we affirm the judgment of the
post-conviction court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/16/20
Michael Hart v. State of Tennessee
W2019-00019-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Norma McGee Ogle
Trial Court Judge: Judge Roy B. Morgan, Jr.

The Petitioner, Michael Hart, appeals the Madison County Circuit Court’s denial of his petition requesting DNA analysis of evidence pursuant to the Post-Conviction DNA Analysis Act of 2001. Based upon the record and the parties’ briefs, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Madison County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/16/20
Cora Beth Rhody v. June E. Rhody Et Al.
M2019-01150-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Arnold B. Goldin
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Ronald Thurman

The decedent’s daughter filed suit to set aside conveyances of her father’s property made pursuant to a durable power of attorney. The trial court granted summary judgment in the petitioner’s favor, holding that the decedent lacked the mental capacity to enter into any legal agreement on the date the durable power of attorney was executed. Because we conclude that there is a genuine issue of material fact as to this question, we reverse the entry of summary judgment and remand for such further proceedings as may be necessary and consistent with this opinion.

DeKalb County Circuit, Criminal & Chancery Courts 04/16/20
Joshua P. Holt v. State of Tennessee
M2018-01299-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Alan E. Glenn
Trial Court Judge: Judge Brody N. Kane

The pro se Petitioner, Joshua P. Holt, appeals the dismissal of his petition for post-conviction relief, arguing that the post-conviction court erred in finding that he received effective assistance of counsel and that his guilty pleas were knowing and voluntary. Following our review, we affirm the dismissal of the petition.

Wilson County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/16/20
Justin Joseph Harris v. Wendell Smith Et Al.
E2019-00906-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Arnold B. Goldin
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Frank V. Williams, III

This is a constructive trust case. The plaintiff, who had recently purchased a twelve-acre tract of real property, filed a complaint for ejectment against the defendants, his uncle and cousin by marriage, who were residing in and claiming ownership of a block house and a two-acre parcel of the twelve-acre tract. The defendants, however, requested—and the trial court ultimately imposed—a constructive trust in favor of defendant uncle against the two-acre parcel and the block house. Finding that the plaintiff purchased the entire twelve acres with notice that the defendant uncle had a beneficial interest in the two-acre parcel and block house, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Rhea County Court of Appeals 04/16/20
Bradley Harper v. Jim Hammond, Sheriff Et Al.
E2019-01247-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Arnold B. Goldin
Trial Court Judge: Judge L. Marie Williams

This appeal follows the trial court’s entry of an order of dismissal. Because the notice of appeal was not timely filed, we dismiss the appeal for lack of subject matter jurisdiction.

Hamilton County Court of Appeals 04/16/20
In Re Madux F.
E2019-01535-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge Arnold B. Goldin
Trial Court Judge: Judge Terry Stevens

This is an appeal of an order terminating a mother’s parental rights. The trial court found that three grounds for termination were proven against the mother and concluded that terminating her rights was in the minor child’s best interests. Although we vacate one ground for termination due to the trial court’s failure to consider all required elements of the statutory ground, we otherwise affirm the termination order.

Roane County Court of Appeals 04/16/20