Court Opinions

Format: 02/17/2018
Format: 02/17/2018
Michael V. Morris v. Blair Leibach, Warden
M2017-00811-CCA-R3-HC
Authoring Judge: Judge John Everett Williams
Trial Court Judge: Judge John D. Wootten, Jr.

The Petitioner, Michael V. Morris, appeals the Trousdale County Circuit Court’s denial of his petition for writ of habeas corpus in which the Petitioner challenged his classification as a career offender. We conclude that the Petitioner has failed to establish that he is entitled to habeas corpus relief, and we affirm the denial of his petition in accordance with Rule 20, Rules of the Court of Criminal Appeals.

Trousdale County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/27/17
Washington County School System By And Through The Washington County Board Of Education Et Al. v. The City Of Johnson City, Tennessee
E2016-02583-COA-R9-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas R. Frierson, II
Trial Court Judge: Judge E.G. Moody

This is one of four separate actions currently before this Court with the common issue of whether the version of Tennessee Code Annotated § 57-4-306(a)(2)(A) in effect prior to the July 2014 amendment of that statute required a municipality governed by its own liquor-by-the-drink referendum and operating its own school system to share one-half of its liquor-by-the-drink tax revenue with the county in which the municipality was located when the county had not enacted a liquor-by-the-drink referendum. The county commenced the instant action by filing a complaint requesting declaratory judgment of its asserted right to a portion of liquor-by-the-drink tax revenue collected within the municipality. The city filed a motion to dismiss the complaint, or in the alternative, for summary judgment. Following a hearing, the trial court denied the municipality’s motion for summary judgment and granted declaratory judgment to the county, declaring that the municipality was required to share with the county its liquor-by-the-drink tax monies distributed to it by the Tennessee Commissioner of Revenue (“the Commissioner”) in the manner that county property tax was expended and distributed. The trial court reserved issues of prejudgment interest and the amount of unremitted tax revenue for an evidentiary hearing. The municipality subsequently filed an unopposed motion for interlocutory appeal, which was granted, respectively, by the trial court and this Court. Determining that the municipality was not required under the applicable version of the statute to share its liquor-by-the-drink tax revenue with the county, we reverse the trial court’s grant of declaratory judgment and grant summary judgment in favor of the municipality, dismissing the county’s complaint.

Washington County Court of Appeals 12/27/17
Blount County Board Of Education Et Al. v. City Of Maryville, Tennessee Et Al.
E2017-00047-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas R. Frierson, II
Trial Court Judge: Judge Telford E. Forgety

This is one of four separate actions currently before this Court with the common issue of whether the version of Tennessee Code Annotated § 57-4-306(a)(2)(A) in effect prior to the July 2014 amendment of that statute required a municipality governed by its own liquor-by-the-drink referendum and operating its own school system to share one-half of its liquor-by-the-drink tax revenue with the county in which the municipality was located when the county had not enacted a liquor-by-the-drink referendum. The county commenced the instant action by filing a complaint requesting declaratory judgment of its asserted right to a portion of liquor-by-the-drink tax revenue collected within the two municipalities involved in this appeal. Following the trial court’s denial of a motion to dismiss filed by the municipalities, the municipalities filed a motion for summary judgment. The county subsequently amended its complaint to, in the alternative, request reimbursement of the portion of liquor-by-the-drink tax revenue it had previously distributed to the municipalities’ respective school systems from liquor-by-the-drink gross receipts collected at private clubs located within the county but outside the incorporated limits of the municipalities. The county then filed a motion for partial summary judgment on the original issue of the cities’ purported liability to share a portion of their liquor-by-the-drink tax revenue with the county. Following a hearing, the trial court granted summary judgment in favor of the municipalities, finding that the municipalities were entitled, respectively, to keep all liquor-by-the-drink tax monies distributed to them by the Tennessee Commissioner of Revenue (“the Commissioner”). The county filed a motion to alter or amend, which the trial court granted insofar as it found that the county’s claims for alternative relief had not been properly before the court when the judgment was entered. Upon subsequent competing motions for summary judgment, the trial court granted summary judgment in favor of the municipalities on the alternative claims as well. The county has appealed. Determining that the municipalities were not required under the applicable version of the statute to share their liquor-by-the-drink tax revenues with the county but that the county was required to share tax revenue from liquor-by-the-drink sales within unincorporated areas of the county with all school systems in the county, we affirm the trial court’s judgment.

Blount County Court of Appeals 12/27/17
Sullivan County, Tennessee Et Al. v. The City Of Bristol, Tennessee Et Al.
E2016-02109-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas R. Frierson, II
Trial Court Judge: Judge John C. Rambo

This is one of four separate actions currently before this Court with the common issue of whether the version of Tennessee Code Annotated § 57-4-306(a)(2)(A) in effect prior to the July 2014 amendment of that statute required a municipality governed by its own liquor-by-the-drink referendum and operating its own school system to share one-half of its liquor-by-the-drink tax revenue with the county in which the municipality was located when the county had not enacted a liquor-by-the-drink referendum. The county initially filed separate complaints against the two municipalities involved in this appeal, requesting declaratory judgment as to the county’s asserted right to a portion of liquorby- the-drink tax revenue collected within each municipality. The municipalities each respectively filed answers denying the county’s claims, as well as counterclaims asserting that the county owed them a portion of liquor-by-the-drink tax revenue collected from private clubs located within the county but outside the incorporated limits of the municipalities. By agreement, the trial court subsequently consolidated the actions. Upon competing motions for summary judgment, the trial court granted partial summary judgment in favor of the municipalities and dismissed the county’s claims, finding that the municipalities were entitled, respectively, to keep all liquor-by-the-drink tax monies distributed to them by the Tennessee Commissioner of Revenue (“the Commissioner”). The county filed a motion to alter or amend this judgment, and the municipalities filed a motion for summary judgment on their counterclaims. In a subsequent order, the trial court denied the county’s motion to alter or amend and granted summary judgment in favor of the municipalities on their counterclaims, awarding money judgments against the county in favor of each municipality. The county has appealed solely the judgment dismissing its claims against the municipalities. Determining that the municipalities were not required under the applicable version of the statute to share their liquor-by-the-drink tax revenues with the county, we affirm the trial court’s judgment.

Sullivan County Court of Appeals 12/27/17
Bradley County School System By And Through The Bradley County Board Of Education Et Al. v. The City Of Cleveland, Tennessee
E2016-01030-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas R. Frierson, II
Trial Court Judge: Judge Jerri S. Bryant

This is one of four separate actions currently before this Court with the common issue of whether the version of Tennessee Code Annotated § 57-4-306(a)(2)(A) in effect prior to the July 2014 amendment of that statute required a municipality governed by its own liquor-by-the-drink referendum and operating its own school system to share one-half of its liquor-by-the-drink tax revenue with the county in which the municipality was located when the county had not enacted a liquor-by-the-drink referendum. The county commenced the instant action by filing a complaint requesting declaratory judgment of its asserted right to a portion of liquor-by-the-drink tax revenue collected within the municipality. Upon subsequent competing motions for summary judgment, the trial court granted summary judgment in favor of the municipality, finding that the municipality was entitled to keep all liquor-by-the-drink tax monies distributed to it by the Tennessee Commissioner of Revenue (“the Commissioner”). Upon the county’s motion to alter or amend, the trial court reserved judgment on the issue of whether the municipality was entitled to the local political subdivision’s portion of the liquor-by-the-drink tax revenue for sales that took place at private clubs within the municipal limits of the municipality prior to the municipality’s 2002 passage of its referendum authorizing liquor-by-the-drink sales. Following consideration of a motion for summary judgment on this remaining issue filed by the municipality and a response filed by the county, the trial court again granted summary judgment in favor of the municipality, dismissing the county’s complaint in its entirety. The county has appealed. Determining that the municipality was not required under the applicable version of the statute to share its liquor-by-the-drink tax revenues with the county, we affirm the trial court’s judgment.

Bradley County Court of Appeals 12/27/17
In Re Brooke E. Et Al.
M2016-02370-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas R. Frierson, II
Trial Court Judge: Judge Andy Brigham

This is a termination of parental rights case involving an almost nine-year-old child, who was removed from his parents’ custody after allegations of sexual abuse, physical abuse, and a violation of the prior visitation order. On June 26, 2015, the Stewart County Juvenile Court (“trial court”) granted temporary legal custody of the child to the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services (“DCS”). The child was immediately placed in foster care, where he has remained since that date. Following an adjudicatory hearing, the trial court entered an order, finding the child dependent and neglected as to both parents. The father filed a notice of appeal from the adjudicatory hearing order, which appeal was still pending during trial in this matter. On September 1, 2015, DCS filed a petition to terminate the parental rights of the father. Following a bench trial, the trial court terminated the father’s parental rights to the child upon the grounds that (1) prior to incarceration, the father had abandoned the child by exhibiting a wanton disregard for the child’s welfare, (2) the conditions that led to the child’s removal from the parents’ custody persisted, and (3) he had committed severe abuse against a half-sibling of the child. The court also found clear and convincing evidence that termination of the father’s parental rights was in the best interest of the child. The trial court declined to terminate the mother’s parental rights after finding that said termination was not in the best interest of the child. The father has appealed. Having determined that there was not a final adjudicatory hearing order for purposes of res judicata due to a pending appeal, we reverse the trial court’s ruling regarding the statutory ground of persistence of conditions. We conclude that the trial court erred by including in its decision portions of evidence from the adjudicatory hearing order, which was pending on appeal, but we determine this error to be harmless. We affirm the trial court’s judgment in all other respects, including the termination of Father’s parental rights to the child. 

Stewart County Court of Appeals 12/22/17
In Re Colton B.
M2017-00997-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge J. Steven Stafford
Trial Court Judge: Judge Diana F. Monroe

Mother appeals the termination of her parental rights. Because the trial court failed to provide a rationale for its decision and the final order entered by the trial court is nearly a verbatim recitation of the termination petition, we vacate the order of the trial court and remand for the entry of an order that reflects that it is the product of the trial court’s individualized decision-making and independent judgment. 

Overton County Court of Appeals 12/22/17
Eric Dewayne Wallace v. State of Tennessee
W2017-00690-CCA-R3-HC
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge Thomas T. Woodall
Trial Court Judge: Judge R. Lee Moore, Jr.

Eric Dewayne Wallace, Petitioner, filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus claiming that he was being illegally detained because his fifteen-year sentence for attempted first degree murder, which was ordered to be served consecutively to his life sentence for felony murder, has expired. The habeas corpus court summarily dismissed the petition. We affirm.

Lake County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/22/17
State of Tennessee v. Shelton Stone Goss
W2016-01227-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge Thomas T. Woodall
Trial Court Judge: Judge Joe H. Walker, III

Defendant, Shelton Stone Goss, was convicted by a Tipton County Jury of attempted  second degree murder, aggravated burglary, five counts of burglary of a vehicle, two counts of theft under $500, one count of theft over $500, one count of theft over $1,000, employment of a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony to wit: attempted second degree murder of Joshua Halleron, and possession of a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony: to wit: aggravated burglary of the Halleron residence. He received an effective fourteen-year sentence to be served in confinement. On appeal, Defendant argues that the evidence was insufficient to support his convictions. After a thorough review of the record, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Tipton County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/22/17
State of Tennessee v. Trevor H. Taylor
E2016-01920-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge T. Woodall, Presiding Judge
Trial Court Judge: Judge James F. Goodwin

Defendant, Trevor H. Taylor, pled guilty to three separate sales of cocaine. Corresponding guilty pleas to delivery of cocaine were merged with the sale of cocaine convictions. The negotiated plea agreement set a sentence of three years for each conviction, to be served concurrently with each other for an effective sentence of three years. The manner of service of the sentence was left to the determination of the trial court at a separate sentencing hearing. The trial court ordered the entire sentence to be served by incarceration. Defendant appeals, arguing that the trial court erred by denying “probation or other appropriate alternative sentencing.” After review, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Sullivan County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/22/17
In Re: Brianna T. Et Al.
E2017-01130-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge W. Neal McBrayer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Timothy E. Irwin

Father appeals from the termination of his parental rights to his four children. Father, who did not attend the final hearing, stipulated through counsel that a statutory ground existed for termination of his parental rights and that termination was in the children’s best interest. The juvenile court terminated Father’s parental rights based on his stipulation and the proof offered by DCS. Despite the stipulation, we conclude that there was clear and convincing evidence of a statutory ground for termination but not for the finding that termination was in the children’s best interest. Thus, we reverse the termination of Father’s parental rights and remand for entry of a judgment dismissing the petition.

Knox County Court of Appeals 12/22/17
In Re: Brianna T. Et Al.
E2017-01132-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge W. Neal McBrayer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Timothy E. Irwin

Mother appeals from the termination of her parental rights to her four children. Mother, who did not attend the final hearing, stipulated through counsel that a statutory ground existed for termination of her parental rights and that termination was in the children’s best interest. The juvenile court terminated Mother’s parental rights based on her stipulation and the proof offered by DCS. Despite the stipulation, we conclude that there was clear and convincing evidence of a statutory ground for termination but not for the finding that termination was in the children’s best interest. Thus, we reverse the termination of Mother’s parental rights and remand for entry of a judgment dismissing the petition.

Knox County Court of Appeals 12/22/17
State of Tennessee v. Daniel S. Sharp
E207-00614-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert H. Montgomery, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Tammy Harrington

The Defendant, Daniel S. Sharp, appeals from the Blount County Circuit Court’s order revoking his community corrections sentence for his convictions for three counts of aggravated assault and one count of robbery. The Defendant contends that the trial court abused its discretion by revoking his community corrections sentence and by ordering him to serve the remainder of his effective ten-year sentence in confinement. We affirm the judgment of the trial court. 

Blount County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/22/17
State of Tennessee v. Torry Holland
W2017-00691-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge James Curwood Witt, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Lee V. Coffee

The defendant, Torry Holland, appeals the summary dismissal of his petition, filed pursuant to Tennessee Rule of Criminal Procedure 36.1, to correct what he believes to be an illegal sentence imposed for his convictions of drug and firearms possession. Discerning no error, we affirm the trial court’s order of summary dismissal. Although we affirm the order dismissing the defendant’s motion, we do notice a clerical error in the judgment form for count 3 in case number 12-00532 that requires entry of a corrected judgment in that count.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/21/17
Shaun Tailaferro v. State of Tennessee
W2017-00138-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge James Curwood Witt, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Clayburn Peeples

The petitioner, Shaun Taliaferro, appeals the denial of post-conviction relief from his 2013 Haywood County Criminal Court jury convictions of second degree murder and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, for which he received an effective sentence of 44 years. In this appeal, the petitioner contends that he was denied the effective assistance of counsel at trial. Discerning no error, we affirm.

Haywood County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/21/17
Ricky L. Boren, et al. v. Hill Boren, PC, et al.
W2017-02255-COA-T10B-CV
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge Frank G. Clement, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Senior Judge Robert E. Lee Davies

This is an accelerated interlocutory appeal as of right, pursuant to Tennessee Supreme Court Rule 10B, from the trial court’s denial of a motion for recusal. Having reviewed the petition for recusal appeal, pursuant to the de novo standard as required under Rule 10B, § 2.01, we affirm the trial court’s decision to deny the motion for recusal.

Madison County Court of Appeals 12/21/17
State of Tennessee v. Aaron Jermaine Clark
E2017-00616-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert L. Holloway, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Thomas C. Greenholtz

Aaron Jermaine Clark (“the Defendant”) appeals the trial court’s revocation of his probation and imposition of his sentences, claiming that he should have been granted an alternative sentence so that he could continue his course of drug rehabilitation. After a review of the record and applicable law, we conclude that the trial court did not abuse its discretion. The judgment of the trial court is affirmed.

Hamilton County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/21/17
Marlon Duane Kiser v. State of Tennessee
E2016-01644-CCA-R3-PD
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Kelly Thomas, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Don W. Poole

The Petitioner, Marlon Duane Kiser, appeals the Hamilton County Criminal Court’s denial of his petition for post-conviction relief challenging his 2003 first degree murder conviction and resulting death sentence. On appeal, the Petitioner alleges that the postconviction court should have granted post-conviction relief based upon allegations of the ineffective assistance of counsel during the guilt-innocence phase of the trial, the original trial judge’s failure to recuse himself for an inappropriate relationship with a victimwitness coordinator, the perjured testimony of a witness, and newly-discovered evidence raising doubt as to his guilt. Following our review, we affirm the judgment of the postconviction court.

Hamilton County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/21/17
State of Tennessee v. Kyle J. Dodd
W2017-00733-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Kelly Thomas
Trial Court Judge: Judge Russell Lee Moore, Jr.

The Defendant, Kyle J. Dodd, was convicted by a jury of driving under the influence (DUI), second offense, a Class A misdemeanor. See Tenn. Code Ann. §§ 55-10-401, - 402(a)(2). The trial court imposed a sentence of eleven months and twenty-nine days with fifty days to be served in confinement and the remainder to be served on supervised probation. On appeal, the Defendant contends that the trial court erred in denying his motion to suppress his statements to the investigating officer and “all evidence derived from” his statements because the officer did not properly inform him of his rights pursuant to Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436 (1966). However, our review of the record reveals that the Defendant failed to raise this issue in a timely motion for new trial; thereby, waiving full appellate review. Additionally, we conclude that plain error review of the issue is not warranted. Accordingly, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Dyer County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/20/17
Blake Bookstaff v. David Gerregano, Commissioner of Revenue, State of Tennessee
E2017-00763-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas R. Frierson, II
Trial Court Judge: Judge Clarence E. Pridemore, Jr.

In this action, the Tennessee Department of Revenue (“the Department”) sought to collect unpaid franchise and excise taxes owed by a dissolved corporation from its former shareholder. The trial court entered a judgment in favor of the shareholder, determining that the Department could not collect on the assessments originally issued in 2008 and 2009 due to the six-year statute of limitations contained in Tennessee Code Annotated § 67-1-1429. The trial court also determined that the shareholder was not a “person” or “taxpayer” subject to franchise and excise taxes because those taxes are assessed solely against entities such as corporations. Finally, the trial court determined that the shareholder had no personal liability for the taxes owed by the dissolved corporation absent proof of a fraudulent conveyance. The Department timely appealed. Determining that the trial court erred in its construction and application of the applicable tax statutes, we reverse the judgment in favor of the shareholder.

Knox County Court of Appeals 12/20/17
Roy D. Cox v. Carolyn Ellen Cox
E2016-01097-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge W. Neal McBrayer
Trial Court Judge: Judge E.G. Moody

This appeal arises from a combined judgment of divorce and an award of damages in tort. After awarding the husband a divorce, the court classified, valued, and divided the marital property. The court also granted the husband a judgment for compensatory and punitive damages arising from an intentional tort committed by the wife. The wife raises numerous issues on appeal, including the classification of marital property, the equitable division of the marital estate, and the amount of the damages award. Because the court’s order lacks sufficient findings of fact and conclusions of law to explain its division of the marital estate or the amount of punitive damages awarded, we vacate those portions of the court’s judgment and remand for entry of an order in compliance with Rule 52.01 of the Tennessee Rules of Civil Procedure. In all other respects, we affirm.

Sullivan County Court of Appeals 12/20/17
In Re: Ava B.
E2017-00440-COA-R3-JV
Authoring Judge: Judge John W. McClarty
Trial Court Judge: Judge Timothy E. Irwin

The parents in this action challenge inter alia, the juvenile court’s decisions regarding calculation of the parents’ income for child support purposes and the modification of the final co-parenting order. Because the evidence does not preponderate against the trial court’s findings, we affirm.

Knox County Court of Appeals 12/20/17
James Clark Jr. v. State of Tennessee
W2017-00196-CCA-R3-ECN
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert L. Holloway, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge James M. Lammey

The Petitioner, James Clark, Jr., appeals pro se from the Shelby County Criminal Court’s summary dismissal of his petition for writ of error coram nobis. He contends that the coram nobis court erred in dismissing the petition. Upon review, we affirm the judgment of the coram nobis court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/19/17
Travis Steed v. State of Tennessee
W2017-00156-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert L. Holloway, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Donald H. Allen

Travis Steed (“the Petitioner”) petitioned for post-conviction relief from his convictions of first degree felony murder, second degree murder, felony reckless endangerment, convicted felon in possession of a handgun, and attempted second degree murder. Following a hearing, the post-conviction court denied relief. On appeal, the Petitioner claims that he was denied effective assistance of counsel as a result of trial counsel’s failure to interview and call certain witnesses that the Petitioner contends were critical to his defense. After a thorough review of the appellate record and applicable law, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Madison County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/19/17
State of Tennessee v. Jeffrey Glynn McCoy
W2016-01619-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge James Curwood Witt, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Clayburn Peeples

The defendant, Jeffrey Glynn McCoy, appeals the total effective sentence of 12 years imposed for his Gibson County guilty-pleaded convictions of burglary and theft of property valued at $10,000 or more but less than $60,000, arguing that the trial court erred by imposing terms of 12 years and by ordering that he serve the effective sentence consecutively to a sentence previously imposed in South Carolina. Discerning no error, we affirm.

Gibson County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/19/17