Court Opinions

Format: 02/23/2017
Format: 02/23/2017
State of Tennessee v. Jennifer Murray Jewell
M2015-02141-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge John Everett Williams
Trial Court Judge: Judge Joseph Woodruff

The Defendant, Jennifer Murray Jewell, entered a “best interest” guilty plea to one count of theft of property valued at over $60,000 in violation of Tennessee Code Annotated section 39-14-103, a Class B felony.  Pursuant to the plea agreement, the Defendant was sentenced to ten years of supervised probation, and the parties agreed that restitution would be set by the trial court at a subsequent hearing.  After considering the proof presented at the hearing, the trial court ordered the Defendant to pay more than $800 per month as restitution.  On appeal, the Defendant argues that the trial court failed to follow correct procedure or consider her ability to pay in calculating the amount of monthly restitution she would owe.  She also argues that the restitution award should be overturned because the State failed to prove the amount of the loss.  Because we conclude that the State introduced inadequate proof regarding the valuation of the loss, we reverse and remand for a new hearing on the issue of restitution.

Williamson County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/06/17
State of Tennessee v. Elizabeth Griswold
E2015-02259-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas T. Woodall
Trial Court Judge: Judge David R. Duggan

Defendant, Elizabeth Griswold, appeals the trial court’s revocation of her community corrections sentence and the imposition of a sentence of confinement. Following our review of the record, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Blount County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/05/17
State of Tennessee v. Tommy Lee Baldwin
E2016-00930-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge James Curwood Witt, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Barry A. Steelman
The defendant, Tommy Lee Baldwin, appeals the revocation of the probationary sentence imposed for his Hamilton County Criminal Court guilty-pleaded convictions of violating his community supervision requirement and of violating the sexual offender registry act. Discerning no error, we affirm.
 
Hamilton County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/05/17
Chazz Alden Hughes, et al. v. R Allen Hughes
E2016-00561-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge John W. McClarty
Trial Court Judge: Judge John C. Rambo

This appeal concerns a dispute over the proceeds of a decedent's federal group life insurance policy. The decedent presumably intended to designate his brother, the appellee in this matter, as the sole beneficiary. The appellants, children of the decedent, allege fraud on the part of the brother and seek to impose a constructive trust upon the funds he received. The trial court granted summary judgment for the brother based on the application of the federal preemption doctrine as well as the Tennessee and federal law of fraud and the Tennessee Rules of Evidence. The appellants appeal. We affirm.

Carter County Court of Appeals 01/05/17
Steve Duclair v. State of Tennessee
E2016-00856-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge James Curwood Witt, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge R. Jerry Beck
The petitioner, Steve Duclair, appeals the denial of post-conviction relief from his 2011 Sullivan County Criminal Court jury convictions of the sale and delivery of .5 grams or more of cocaine and the sale and delivery of .5 grams of more of cocaine within a drugfree school zone, for which he received an effective sentence of 15 years. In this appeal, the petitioner contends only that he was denied the effective assistance of counsel. Discerning no error, we affirm.
 
Sullivan County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/05/17
Robert Keith Ward v. State of Tennessee
E2016-01110-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge James Curwood Witt, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Rex Henry Ogle
The petitioner, Robert Keith Ward, appeals pro se from the summary dismissal of his 2016 petition for post-conviction relief, which challenged his 2004 conviction of aggravated rape. Because the petition was filed well beyond the applicable statute of limitations and because the petitioner failed to prove a statutory exception to the timely filing or a due process tolling of the statute of limitations, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.
 
Sevier County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/05/17
Valerie Israel, et al. v. Bryan York, et al.
E2016-02312-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas R. Frierson, II
Trial Court Judge: Judge James Lauderback
The pro se appellants, Bryan York and Anna Eastwood, appeal from a final order entered on October 17, 2016. The Notice of Appeal was not filed until November 18, 2016, more than thirty (30) days from the date of entry of the final order. The appellees, Valerie Israel and Russ Israel, have filed a motion to dismiss this appeal arguing, among other things, that the Notice of Appeal was not timely filed. Because it appears from the attachments to the motion that the Notice of Appeal was not timely filed, we have no jurisdiction to consider this appeal and grant the motion to dismiss.
 
Washington County Court of Appeals 01/04/17
State of Tennessee v. Edythe Christie
W2015-02485-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Timothy L. Easter
Trial Court Judge: Judge Donald H. Allen

Defendant, Edythe Christie, appeals her conviction of tampering with evidence. The trial court denied judicial diversion, sentencing Defendant to four years and six months, with all but 150 days of the sentence to be served on probation. On appeal, Defendant challenges the sufficiency of the evidence, the jury instruction on tampering with the evidence, and the denial of judicial diversion. Defendant also argues that juror bias violated her right to a fair trial and impartial jury. After a review of the issues, we determine that Defendant is not entitled to relief. Consequently, the judgment of the trial court is affirmed.

Madison County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/30/16
Greer Craig et al. v. Peoples Community Bank
E2016-00575-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Charles D. Susano, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge John C. Rambo

The plaintiffs, Greer Craig and Lana Kaye Craig, brought an action against Peoples Community Bank (the Bank). Their cause of action is essentially identical to Mr. Craig’s two prior actions, each of which previously had been dismissed with prejudice and not appealed. In the present action, the trial court applied the doctrines of res judicata and collateral estoppel and granted the Bank summary judgment. We affirm. Furthermore, we find this appeal to be frivolous. Accordingly, we remand this case to the trial court so it can award the Bank its reasonable attorney’s fees and expenses on appeal.

Washington County Court of Appeals 12/30/16
State of Tennessee v. Allen Glen Begley
E2016-00331-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Kelly Thomas, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge James F. Goodwin, Jr.
The Defendant, Allen Glen Begley, appeals as of right from the Sullivan County
Criminal Court’s revocation of the balance of his two-year probationary sentence for
failure to appear. The Defendant submits that he was not afforded due process because
the violation affidavits, which listed the wrong case number, were “fatally defective.”
Following our review, we affirm the trial court’s revocation of the Defendant’s probation.
 
Sullivan County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/30/16
State of Tennessee v. Nicole Flowers
M2014-01744-SC-R11-CD
Authoring Judge: Justice Roger A. Page
Trial Court Judge: Judge Robert Lee Holloway, Jr.

Nicole Flowers (“the defendant”) was convicted of the criminal offense of stalking, see Tennessee Code Annotated section 39-17-315, based, in part, on her posting disparaging signs about the victim on the victim's private property and on the property of his employer, which was a public place. We granted this appeal to consider whether the signs placed by the defendant amounted to an exercise of her right to free speech, as protected by the United States and Tennessee Constitutions. We also consider whether the evidence presented at the bench trial was sufficient to sustain the defendant's conviction. We conclude, based on the proof in the record on appeal, that the evidence underlying the defendant's conviction for stalking is insufficient to sustain her conviction and therefore reverse the judgment of the Court of Criminal Appeals. Having determined that the evidence is insufficient, the issue of the defendant's right to free speech is pretermitted.

Maury County Supreme Court 12/30/16
State of Tennessee v. John Henry Pruitt
M2013-02393-SC-R11-CD
Authoring Judge: Justice Roger A. Page
Trial Court Judge: Judge Timothy L. Easter

We granted this appeal to consider whether the Court of Criminal Appeals incorrectly held in State v. Hayes, No. M2012-01768-CCA-R3-CD, 2013 WL 3378320, at *7 (Tenn. Crim. App. July 1, 2013), no perm. app. filed, that retroactive application of the Exclusionary Rule Reform Act, Tennessee Code Annotated section 40-6-108, would violate constitutional protections against ex post facto laws and to re-evaluate the ex post facto analysis in Miller v. State, 584 S.W.2d 758 (Tenn. 1979), in light of Collins v. Youngblood, 497 U.S. 37 (1990). Having concluded that Miller was wrongly decided, we overrule Miller and hold that the ex post facto clause of the Tennessee Constitution has the same definition and scope as the federal ex post facto clause. To be an ex post facto violation, a law must be retroactive in its application and must fall within one of the four categories set forth in Calder v. Bull, 3 U.S. (3 Dall.) 386, 390 (1798) (opinion of Chase, J.). We conclude that the Exclusionary Rule Reform Act is not an ex post facto statute as applied in this case and that as a result, the Defendant‟s motion to suppress the evidence against him was not well-taken. In addition, we conclude that the Defendant's issues regarding the sufficiency of the evidence to convict him and to sentence him to life without the possibility of parole do not entitle him to relief. Accordingly, the judgments of the Court of Criminal Appeals are affirmed on the separate grounds stated herein.

Hickman County Supreme Court 12/30/16
Sonya Mae Stanley v. Colin Richard Stanley
M2015-01964-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge W. Neal McBrayer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Phillip R. Robinson

This appeal arises from a father’s petition to relocate with his minor children.  The father sought to relocate to Oklahoma in order to work on his family’s farm, which he hoped to eventually inherit.  The father, as the parent spending the greater amount of time with the children, sent the children’s mother a notice of intent to move.  The father then filed a petition to relocate with the minor children to Oklahoma.  The trial court concluded that, because he was the petitioner, the father bore the burden of proof on whether the move was for a reasonable purpose.  After both parents presented their proof, the trial court denied the request to relocate.  The court found the father lacked a reasonable purpose for the proposed move.  Because we conclude the burden of proof rested with the mother, we vacate and remand for further proceedings.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 12/30/16
In re Renaldo M. Jr., et al.
M2016-00472-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge Richard H. Dinkins
Trial Court Judge: Judge Tim Barnes

The trial court terminated the parental rights of a Mother to her three children on the grounds of abandonment by engaging in conduct evidencing a wanton disregard for the children’s welfare and persistence of conditions.  Mother appeals, contending that the evidence is insufficient to sustain the termination of her rights.  Concluding that the evidence of Mother’s pre-incarceration conduct does not clearly and convincingly prove a wanton disregard for the children’s welfare, we reverse the trial court’s finding in that regard.  There is clear and convincing evidence supporting holding that the conditions which led to the children’s removal from Mother’s custody persisted and that termination of her rights is in the best interest of the children; accordingly, we affirm the termination of Mother’s rights on that ground.

Montgomery County Court of Appeals 12/30/16
Hyundai Motor America v. Tennessee Motor Vehicle Commission, et al.
M2015-01411-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Richard H. Dinkins
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Ellen H. Lyle

This appeal arises from a proceeding initiated by two automobile dealers who challenged the location of a proposed dealership in a contested case proceeding before the Tennessee Motor Vehicle Commission (the “Commission”); the manufacturer contended that the dealers were not located in the “relevant market area,” as required by statute and moved to dismiss the proceeding for lack of standing.  The administrative law judge overruled the manufacturer’s motion, and the manufacturer filed a petition in Chancery Court seeking interlocutory review.  The trial court dismissed the petition, holding that the court lacked jurisdiction to review the administrative judge’s ruling on the motion.  The motor vehicle manufacturer appeals the dismissal of its petition for judicial review of the denial of its motion to dismiss the contested case proceeding. Concluding that the manufacturer did not meet the threshold requirement for immediate judicial review as set forth in the Administrative Procedures Act, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 12/30/16
In re Cheyanna B.
E2016-01503-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: D. Michael Swiney
Trial Court Judge: Judge Dennis "Will" Roach, II
John B. (“Father”) appeals the order of the Juvenile Court for Jefferson County (“the Juvenile Court”) terminating his parental rights to the minor child Cheyanna B. (“the Child”) after finding and holding that grounds for termination for abandonment by wanton disregard pursuant to Tenn. Code Ann. § 36-1-113(g)(1) and Tenn. Code Ann. § 36-1-102(1)(A)(iv) were proven by clear and convincing evidence and that it was proven by clear and convincing evidence that termination was in the Child’s best interest. We find and hold that the evidence does not preponderate against the Juvenile Court’s findings made by clear and convincing evidence, and we affirm.
 
Jefferson County Court of Appeals 12/29/16
Bennie Osby v. State of Tennessee
W2015-02479-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert L. Holloway, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge James C. Beasley, Jr.

Bennie Osby (“the Petitioner”) was convicted after a jury trial of especially aggravated kidnapping, attempted second degree murder, aggravated robbery, and employing a firearm during the commission of a felony. He sought post-conviction relief alleging ineffective assistance of counsel. The post-conviction court denied relief. On appeal, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/29/16
Demquarter Healthcare Investors, L.P. v. OP Chattanooga, LLC, et al.
E2016-00031-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Andy D. Bennett
Trial Court Judge: Judge Jeffrey M. Atherton

This case involves the lease of a skilled nursing facility. The lessee assigned the lease, and the assignee then subleased the nursing facility. While the appeal raises multiple issues, we have determined that the lessor prevails and that the judgment of the trial court must be reversed and the case remanded.

Hamilton County Court of Appeals 12/29/16
State of Tennessee v. Ashanti Glass
E2015-01900-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas T. Woodall
Trial Court Judge: Judge G. Scott Green

The defendant, Ashanti Glass, was sentenced to fifteen years in confinement after a jury found her guilty of aggravated child neglect pursuant to Tenn. Code Ann. § 39-15-402. On appeal, the defendant argues the evidence was insufficient to support her conviction. Following our review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/29/16
Ken Buckner, et al. v. Mike Goodman, et al.
E2016-00150-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas R. Frierson, II
Trial Court Judge: Judge Jerri S. Bryant

This case involves a contract to purchase a home on the sellers‟ condition that the home be removed from the sellers‟ real property at the buyers‟ expense. The sellers and the buyers entered into a written contract on January 25, 2013, at which time the buyers paid a $2,500 deposit toward an agreed price of $5,000 for the home. The contract did not set forth a deadline for the home to be removed from the sellers‟ property, although the sellers were required to demonstrate to the lender financing their new construction loan that the home had been removed. The buyers contacted several potential house movers to transport the home but did not execute a final written contract with any of them. The sellers subsequently entered into a written agreement with movers who had originally been contacted by the buyers, retaining the movers to “take possession” of the home and transport it but providing the original buyers a first option to purchase. After learning of the agreement between the sellers and the movers, the buyers contacted the movers, “firing” them. The sellers then had the home demolished. The buyers filed a complaint against the sellers, alleging breach of a home sales contract. The sellers filed a counter-complaint, alleging that the buyers had materially breached the contract first by failing to timely remove the home. The buyers subsequently filed a second complaint against the movers, alleging intentional interference with contractual relations. The trial court consolidated the two actions. Following presentation of the buyers‟ proof during a bench trial, the trial court found that the buyers had materially breached the contract. The court granted the sellers‟ and the movers‟ respective motions for involuntary dismissal pursuant to Tennessee Rule of Civil Procedure 41.02. Upon hearing the sellers‟ evidence regarding damages, the court entered a judgment in favor of the sellers in the amount of $5,200, comprised of $7,700 in total damages offset by the $2,500 previously paid by the buyers. The buyers timely appealed. Discerning no reversible error, we affirm.

Bradley County Court of Appeals 12/29/16
In re Yariel S., et al.
E2016-00939-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Michael Swiney
Trial Court Judge: Judge Timothy E. Irwin
This appeal arises from a termination of parental rights. The Tennessee Department of Children’s Services (“DCS”) filed a petition in the Juvenile Court for Knox County (“the Juvenile Court”) seeking to terminate the parental rights of Yaron L. (“Father”) to his four minor children Yariel, Yaron, Yariyana, and YariAsia (“the Children”). After a trial, the Juvenile Court terminated Father’s parental rights on the grounds of persistent conditions and substantial noncompliance with the permanency plan. The Juvenile Court also found that termination of Father’s parental rights was in the Children’s best interest. Father appeals to this Court. Father argues that he was not properly notified of the trial, that counsel should have been appointed, and that termination of his parental rights is not in the Children’s best interest. We hold that that the evidence in the record on appeal shows, as found by the Juvenile Court, that Father was notified of trial, that Father failed to appear at trial, and that the Juvenile Court did not err in declining to appoint Father counsel when he failed to appear. We also find and hold that the Juvenile Court’s determinations regarding grounds for termination and the Children’s best interest are supported by clear and convincing evidence. We affirm the judgment of the Juvenile Court.
 
Knox County Court of Appeals 12/29/16
In Re: Neylan H.
E2015-02444-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Michael Swiney
Trial Court Judge: Judge Douglas T. Jenkins

Terri W.H. (“Mother”) and Justin H. (“Stepfather”) filed a petition seeking to terminate the parental rights of James P. (“Father”) to the minor child Neylan H. (“the Child”) in order to allow Stepfather to adopt the Child. After a trial, the Circuit Court for Greene County (“the Trial Court”) entered its order denying the petition after finding and holding, inter alia, that Mother and Stepfather had failed to prove by clear and convincing evidence that Father had abandoned the Child by willful failure to provide support. Mother appeals to this Court. We find and hold that the evidence does not preponderate against the findings made by the Trial Court, and we affirm.

Greene County Court of Appeals 12/29/16
Richard L. Vowell v. State of Tennessee
E2016-00374-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Kelly Thomas, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Donald R. Elledge
The Petitioner, Richard L. Vowell, appeals from the Anderson County Circuit Court’s summary denial of his petition for post-conviction relief. The Petitioner contends that the post-conviction court erred in finding that his petition was untimely filed because the statute of limitations should have been tolled on due process grounds. Following our review, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.
 
Anderson County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/29/16
State of Tennessee v. Elizabeth Gardenhire
M2015-01998-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Alan E. Glenn
Trial Court Judge: Judge David A. Patterson

Following a jury trial, the defendant, Elizabeth Gardenhire, was convicted of theft of property valuedat $1000 or more but less than $10,000, a Class D felony.  The trial court sentenced the defendant as a career offender to twelve years in the Department of Correction.  On appeal, the defendant challenges the sufficiency of the evidence, arguing that the State failed to establish that she acted knowingly or that the value of the property was $1000 or more.  Based upon our review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

White County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/29/16
WM Capital Partners, LLC v. Anthony W. Thornton, et al.
M2015-00328-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge W. Neal McBrayer
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Claudia Bonnyman

A secured creditor filed suit against a trucking company and two guarantors seeking a deficiency judgment after disposition of the collateral securing payment of the debt.  The trial court granted the secured creditor summary judgment in the amount of the deficiency.  On appeal, the trucking company and the guarantors argue that (1) the delay in repossessing the collateral rendered its disposition commercially unreasonable and (2) the secured creditor failed to present sufficient evidence of the amount of its damages.  We conclude that the requirement of a commercially reasonable disposition found in Tennessee Code Annotated § 47-9-610 only applies once the secured party has actual or constructive possession of the collateral.  The secured creditor’s refusal to repossess the collateral at the trucking company’s request did not amount to actual or constructive possession.  Nonetheless, in light of the challenge to the time aspect of the disposition, the secured creditor failed to meet its burden of production on summary judgment.  Therefore, we reverse the grant of summary judgment.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 12/29/16