Court Opinions

Format: 06/22/2018
Format: 06/22/2018
In Re Emily J. Et Al.
M2017-01959-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge Richard H. Dinkins
Trial Court Judge: Judge Sharon Guffee

Mother appeals the termination of her parental rights to two children on the grounds of abandonment by failure to support and persistence of conditions. Upon our review, we conclude that the record contains clear and convincing evidence that the conditions which led to the children’s removal from Mother’s home persisted and that termination of her rights is in the children’s best interest; however, the evidence of abandonment by failure to support is not clear and convincing. Accordingly, we reverse the judgment in part and affirm the termination of her rights.  

Williamson County Court of Appeals 05/09/18
State of Tennessee v. Charles Lee Warner
M2016-02075-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Kelly Thomas, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge David M. Bragg

The Defendant, Charles Lee Warner, appeals his jury conviction for first degree murder, for which he was sentenced to life imprisonment. In this direct appeal, the Defendant alleges the following errors: (1) that the evidence was insufficient to support his conviction, challenging the evidence establishing his identity and premeditation, and alleging that his jailhouse confession was not sufficiently corroborated; (2) that the trial court erred by declaring Robert Strange to be an unavailable witness and admitting his preliminary hearing testimony; and (3) relying on the rules of evidentiary relevance, that the trial court erred (a) by permitting a law enforcement officer to testify “regarding the [D]efendant’s propensity to carry weapons in the past”; (b) by allowing a former employer to testify about murderous threats made by the Defendant to the victim over a year prior to the victim’s death; and (c) by prohibiting defense counsel from eliciting testimony “regarding the potentially violent propensities of others known to the witness in the homeless community.” Following our review of the record and the applicable authorities, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Rutherford County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/09/18
Tarrants Yvelt Chandler v. State of Tennessee
M2017-01539-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Kelly Thomas, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Mark J. Fishburn

The Petitioner, Tarrants Yvelt Chandler, appeals from the Davidson County Criminal Court’s denial of his petition for post-conviction relief. The Petitioner contends that he is entitled to post-conviction relief due to (1) numerous instances of ineffective assistance of his trial counsel; and (2) the State’s failure to disclose “exculpatory evidence prior to trial.” Discerning no error, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/09/18
Deon Lamont Cartmell v. State of Tennessee
M2017-00552-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Alan E. Glenn
Trial Court Judge: Judge J. Randall Wyatt, Jr.

The Petitioner, Deon Lamont Cartmell, was convicted of second degree murder for the killing of his wife and sentenced to eighteen years. On direct appeal, his conviction and sentence were affirmed. State v. Deon Lamont Cartmell, No. M2012-01925-CCA-R3-CD, 2014 WL 3056164, at *1 (Tenn. Crim. App. July 7, 2014), perm. app. denied (Tenn. Nov. 20, 2014). He then filed a timely petition for post-conviction relief, followed by three amended petitions, alleging ineffective assistance of counsel, prosecutorial misconduct, and cumulative error. Following a bifurcated hearing, the post-conviction court found that the Petitioner’s claims were without merit, and we agree. Accordingly, we affirm the order of the post-conviction court denying relief.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/09/18
Terry Lea Bunch v. State of Tennessee
M2017-00246-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas T. Woodall
Trial Court Judge: Judge Jill Bartee Ayers

Petitioner, Terry Lea Bunch, appeals the summary dismissal of his petition for post-conviction relief for being filed untimely. Petitioner alleged in his petition that defects in the affidavit of complaint rendered his conviction void. Having reviewed the record and the parties’ briefs, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Montgomery County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/08/18
Matthew Brock Hance v. Danielle Smith Hance
E2017-01419-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Frank G. Clement Jr., P.J., M.S.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Douglas T. Jenkins

The issue on appeal is whether the commencement of a dependency and neglect action in the juvenile court deprived the chancery court of subject matter jurisdiction to rule on a pending motion to modify a parenting plan. Shortly after Father filed his petition to modify the parenting plan in the chancery court, the Department of Children’s Services filed a dependency and neglect petition in the juvenile court. After the juvenile court held a preliminary hearing on the dependency and neglect petition and assumed jurisdiction, the chancery court modified the parents’ child support obligations and awarded the father the federal income tax exemption for the child. Months later, the mother filed a motion to vacate the chancery court’s judgment on the basis it was void ab initio for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. The chancery court denied the motion, and this appeal followed. Tenn. Code Ann. § 37-1-103 vests juvenile courts with exclusive original jurisdiction over dependency and neglect proceedings and, once a juvenile court has exercised jurisdiction in a dependency and neglect proceeding, its exclusive jurisdiction continues until the case has been dismissed, the custody determination is transferred to another court exercising domestic relations jurisdiction, or a petition for adoption is filed. Because none of the jurisdiction exceptions had occurred prior to the chancery court modifying the parenting plan, the chancery court’s order was void ab initio for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. Accordingly, the chancery court’s order modifying the parenting plan is hereby vacated.

Hamblen County Court of Appeals 05/08/18
In Re: Isaiah B.
E2017-01699-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge J. Steven Stafford, P.J., W.S.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Klyne Lauderback

Mother appeals the termination of her parental rights on grounds of (1) abandonment by failure to establish a suitable home; (2) persistence of conditions; (3) substantial noncompliance with permanency plans; and (4) failure to manifest a willingness and ability to assume custody of the child. We reverse the trial court’s ruling with regard to substantial noncompliance with permanency plans, but affirm the remaining grounds, as well as the trial court’s determination that termination is in the child’s best interest. The termination of Mother’s parental rights is therefore affirmed.

Carter County Court of Appeals 05/08/18
Polly Spann Kershaw v. Jeffrey L. Levy
M2017-01129-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Brandon O. Gibson
Trial Court Judge: Judge William B. Acree

This is a legal malpractice case. Appellant filed suit against Appellee, who had previously served as Appellant’s attorney in a divorce matter. Appellant alleged that she suffered monetary damages and was convicted of criminal contempt as a result of the negligent legal representation she received from Appellee in her divorce case. Appellee filed a motion for summary judgment claiming that Appellant’s claims were, among other things, barred by the doctrine of judicial estoppel as a result of the sworn statements Appellant made in conjunction with her divorce settlement. The trial court agreed and granted summary judgment in favor of Appellee. We affirm.      

Davidson County Court of Appeals 05/08/18
State of Tennessee v. James Wolford
M2017-01506-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge J. Ross Dyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Gary McKenzie

The defendant, James Wolford, appeals the order of the trial court revoking his probation and ordering him to serve his original four-year sentence in confinement. Following our review of the record and applicable authorities, we conclude the trial court did not abuse its discretion in finding the defendant violated the terms of his probation and the imposed sentence is proper. Accordingly, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

White County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/08/18
Sammie L. Brookins, et al. v. Owen B. Tabor, Jr., et al.
W2017-00576-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Andy D. Bennett
Trial Court Judge: Judge Robert L. Childers

A plaintiff filed a health care liability complaint in 2015 against several physicians and entities that he later non-suited in order to comply with the pre-suit notice requirements set forth in Tenn. Code Ann. § 29-26-121(a). The plaintiff then filed a second complaint against the same defendants, relying on the saving statutes of Tenn. Code Ann. § 28-1- 105 and Tenn. Code Ann. § 29-26-121(c) to extend his statute of limitations. The plaintiff’s wife joined him as a plaintiff in the second complaint. The defendants filed motions to dismiss, alleging non-compliance with the pre-suit notice requirements and the statute of limitations. The trial court granted all of the defendants’ motions and dismissed the complaint. The plaintiffs appealed the trial court’s dismissal of the complaint against the physicians. We affirm the trial court’s dismissal of the complaint against all three of the physicians on statute of limitations grounds. We also affirm the trial court’s judgment dismissing the wife’s claims against all of the defendants.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 05/08/18
State of Tennessee v. Douglas McArthur Wilson
M2017-00432-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Timothy L. Easter
Trial Court Judge: Judge Brody N. Kane

Defendant, Douglas McArthur Wilson, was indicted for attempted first degree murder in 2012. After a jury trial, Defendant was convicted of the lesser included offense of attempted second degree murder. The trial court sentenced Defendant to ten years in incarceration. After the denial of a motion for new trial, Defendant presents a multitude of issues on appeal. After a thorough review of the record and applicable authorities, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Smith County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/07/18
Renee Ann Bradley v. Richard Bradley
E2017-01626-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Andy D. Bennett
Trial Court Judge: Judge Michael A. Davis

A husband and wife were divorced in 2016, and the divorce decree permitted the husband to purchase the parties’ real property, which was in the wife’s name. The parenting plan provided the parties the opportunity to travel domestically or abroad with their minor son. The husband filed a contempt petition against the wife based on her refusal (1) to provide information to his lender that was necessary for him to close on the purchase of the property and (2) to cooperate with him to renew their child’s passport when the husband wanted to travel with the child to Europe. The trial court found the wife in contempt on both grounds and awarded the husband damages. The wife appealed, arguing that she was not willful in refusing to cooperate with the husband’s lender. The evidence showed that the wife believed the husband was trying to refinance her loan and add his name to her deed rather than purchase the property outright. We hold that the trial court erred in finding the wife willfully disobeyed the court’s order that she cooperate with the husband’s lender. We affirm the trial court’s order holding the wife in contempt for failing to cooperate with the husband in renewing the child’s passport.

Morgan County Court of Appeals 05/07/18
Antonio L. Freeman v. State of Tennessee
M2017-00036-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Norma McGee Ogle
Trial Court Judge: Judge Dee David Gay

The Petitioner, Antonio L. Freeman, appeals the Sumner County Criminal Court’s denial of his petition for post-conviction relief from his conviction of possessing contraband in a penal facility and resulting sentence of ten years in confinement. On appeal, the Petitioner contends that he received the ineffective assistance of counsel on direct appeal of his conviction. Based upon the record and the parties’ briefs, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Sumner County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/07/18
John A. Gardner Et Al. v. R & J Express, LLC
E2017-00823-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas R. Frierson, II
Trial Court Judge: Judge Beth Boniface

In this negligence action that arose from a tractor-trailer accident, the trial court dismissed the plaintiffs’ claims following the court’s determination that a critical piece of evidence had been destroyed by the plaintiffs, resulting in severe prejudice to the defendant. The court further determined that dismissal was the only equitable remedy for the plaintiffs’ spoliation of evidence. The plaintiffs timely appealed the dismissal of their claims. Discerning no reversible error, we affirm.

Hamblen County Court of Appeals 05/07/18
State of Tennessee v. Patrick Jayson Reeners
M2016-02184-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert W. Wedemeyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Dee David Gay

The Defendant, Patrick Jayson Reeners, pleaded guilty to public intoxication and disorderly conduct and received concurrent thirty day sentences. In a separate case, he pleaded guilty to telephone harassment and received a probation sentence of eleven months and twenty-nine days. After the entry of his guilty pleas and sentencing, the Defendant filed a motion to withdraw his guilty pleas “made under life threatening needed medical attention.” The trial court denied the motion after a hearing. On appeal, the Defendant claims that the trial court erred when it did not find a “fair and just reason” to allow the Defendant to withdraw his pleas. After review, we affirm the trial court’s judgment.

Sumner County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/07/18
Randall E. Pearson, MD, Et Al. v. Paul Koczera, Et Al.
E2017-00258-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge John W. McClarty
Trial Court Judge: Judge John D. McAfee

This appeal follows prior appeals in this litigation that has spanned a decade. In this latest appeal, the trial court determined that the motions filed by the administrator ad litem for the estate of the third-party plaintiff should be denied. We affirm.

Anderson County Court of Appeals 05/07/18
State of Tennessee v. Bryant Williamson
W2016-02434-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Camille R. McMullen
Trial Court Judge: Judge Chris Craft

The Defendant-Appellant, Bryant Williamson was convicted of one count each of first degree murder, attempted first degree murder, and unlawful employment of a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony. The trial court sentenced him as a Range I, standard offender to an effective sentence of life plus ten years. The sole issue presented for our review is whether the evidence is sufficient to support the Defendant’s convictions. After a thorough review of the record and briefs, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/04/18
Armard Reeves v. State of Tennessee
W2017-00502-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Camille R. McMullen
Trial Court Judge: Judge James M. Lammey

The Petitioner, Armard Reeves, appeals from the denial of post-conviction relief, alleging that he was deprived of an impartial jury based on juror misconduct and that trial counsel was ineffective in failing to pursue this issue in a motion for new trial and on direct appeal. Upon our review, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/04/18
State of Tennessee v. Teddie Elijah Fason
W2017-01349-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge John Everett Williams
Trial Court Judge: Judge Donald H. Allen

The Defendant, Teddie Elijah Fason, entered guilty pleas to burglary, theft of property valued at more than $1,000, vandalism, and evading arrest, and he was sentenced to serve four years on probation. The Defendant appeals the trial court’s revocation of his probation and its judgment ordering him to serve his sentences in confinement. After a thorough review of the record, we discern no abuse of discretion, and we affirm the trial court’s judgment.

Henderson County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/04/18
Adam C. Butler v. State of Tennessee
W2017-01827-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge James Curwood Witt, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Roy B. Morgan

The petitioner, Adam C. Butler, appeals the denial of his petition for post-conviction relief, which petition challenged his 2015 conviction of vandalism of property valued at $1,000 or more but less than $10,000. Discerning no error, we affirm.

Madison County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/04/18
State of Tennessee v. Paul Flannigan
W2017-01714-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge James Curwood Witt, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Lee V. Coffee

The defendant, Paul Flannigan, appeals the summary dismissal of his motion, filed pursuant to Tennessee Rule of Criminal Procedure 36.1, to correct what he believes to be an illegal sentence imposed for his Shelby County Criminal Court jury convictions of attempted first degree murder, especially aggravated robbery, aggravated rape, and aggravated burglary. Discerning no error, we affirm.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/04/18
In Re Justice H., Et Al.
M2017-01870-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Chief Judge D. Michael Swiney
Trial Court Judge: Judge G. Andrew Brigham

This appeal concerns the termination of two parents’ parental rights. The Tennessee Department of Children’s Services (“DCS”) filed a petition in the Juvenile Court for Stewart County (“the Juvenile Court”) seeking to terminate the parental rights of Joshua H. (“Father”) and Amie H. (“Mother”) to their minor children Justice and Alijah (“the Children,” collectively). After a trial, the Juvenile Court found the ground of severe abuse with respect to both parents. The Juvenile Court also found that termination of Mother’s and Father’s parental rights is in the Children’s best interest. Mother and Father appeal to this Court. Neither parent contests grounds for termination, but both parents challenge the Juvenile Court’s finding that termination of their parental rights is in the Children’s best interest. We find by clear and convincing evidence, as did the Juvenile Court, that termination of Mother’s and Father’s parental rights is in the Children’s best interest. We affirm the judgment of the Juvenile Court.

Stewart County Court of Appeals 05/04/18
In Re: James Carl Cope, BPR #03340
M2016-02144-SC-BAR-BP
Authoring Judge: Justice Roger A. Page
Trial Court Judge:

This Court suspended attorney James Carl Cope pursuant to Tennessee Supreme Court Rule 9, section 22.3, based on his federal felony conviction for insider trading and referred the matter to the Board of Professional Responsibility (“Board”) to initiate proceedings to determine his final discipline. A hearing panel (“Panel”) imposed a final discipline of twenty-five months’ suspension, retroactive to the date of his initial suspension by this Court, which was on October 25, 2016. Neither the Board nor Mr. Cope appealed this judgment. The Board petitioned this Court for an order enforcing the Panel’s judgment. Pursuant to Tennessee Supreme Court Rule 9, section 15.4(b) and (c), we determined that the punishment imposed by the Panel appeared inadequate and proposed that it be increased. Mr. Cope subsequently requested oral argument, which we granted. We now consider whether the punishment imposed by the Panel is appropriate under the circumstances of this case and is in uniformity with prior disciplinary decisions in this state. Following a thorough review of the record and the law, we conclude that it is not. Therefore, we modify the Panel’s judgment to impose the twenty-five-month suspension prospectively from the filing of this opinion.

Supreme Court 05/04/18
State of Tennessee v. Elijajuan Smith
E2017-01086-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert H. Montgomery, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Tom Greenholtz

The Defendant, Elijajuan Smith, appeals the Hamilton County Criminal Court’s order revoking his probation for his burglary of a business and vandalism convictions and ordering him to serve his effective four-year sentence in confinement. The Defendant contends that the trial court abused its discretion by revoking his probation. We affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Hamilton County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/04/18
State of Tennessee v. Larry Eugene Haynes
E2017-01849-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert H. Montgomery, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Rex Henry Ogle

The Defendant, Larry Eugene Haynes, appeals the Sevier County Circuit Court’s order revoking his probation for his forgery and misdemeanor theft convictions and ordering him to serve the remainder of his effective six-year sentence in confinement. The Defendant contends that the trial court abused its discretion by ordering his sentence into execution. We affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Sevier County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/04/18