Tennessee Administrative Office of the Courts

Appellate Court Opinions

Format: 10/22/2019
Format: 10/22/2019
In Re Kingston A. B.
M2018-02164-COA-R3-PT

Father and Step-Mother filed a petition to terminate Mother’s parental rights on the grounds of willful failure to visit and support. The trial court denied termination based upon willful failure to visit, but found sufficient evidence in favor of willful failure to support. The trial court, however, found that termination was not in the child’s best interest and therefore denied the petition to terminate Mother’s parental rights. Because we conclude that clear and convincing evidence does not support the ground of willful failure to support, we reverse the trial court’s finding of a ground to support termination. As such, we affirm the trial court’s denial of the termination petition.

Montgomery County Court of Appeals 08/21/19
State of Tennessee v. Mimi Barrett
E2018-01643-CCA-R3-CD

Mimi Barrett, Defendant, pled guilty to three counts of sale of a Schedule III controlled substance within a drug-free zone (counts one, three, and five), three counts of delivery of a Schedule III controlled substance within a drug-free zone (counts two, four, and six), and one count of maintaining a dwelling where a controlled substance was kept or sold (count seven). The trial court ordered Defendant to serve concurrent sentences of two years in the Tennessee Department of Correction for each conviction. On appeal, Defendant argues that the trial court erred by ordering her to serve her sentence in the Tennessee Department of Correction because the trial court incorrectly determined that her convictions under the Drug-Free School Zone Act (“DFSZ Act”) made her ineligible for community corrections. After a thorough review of the facts and applicable case law, we conclude that the trial court properly denied community corrections on the ground that Defendant was convicted under the Drug-Free School Zone Act. We affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Sullivan County Court of Criminal Appeals 08/20/19
State of Tennessee v. Robert Diggs
E2018-01755-CCA-R3-CD

Robert Diggs, Defendant, pled guilty to two counts of sale of a Schedule III controlled substance within a drug-free zone (counts one and five), two counts of delivery of a Schedule III controlled substance within a drug-free zone (counts two and six), and one count of maintaining a dwelling where a controlled substance was kept or sold (count seven). The trial court ordered Defendant to serve concurrent sentences of two years in the Tennessee Department of Correction for the convictions in counts one and five. No sentence was imposed in counts two and six. On appeal, Defendant argues that the trial court erred by ordering him to serve his sentence in the Tennessee Department of Correction because the trial court incorrectly determined that his convictions under the Drug-Free School Zone Act (“DFSZ Act”) made him ineligible for community corrections. After a thorough review of the facts and applicable case law, we conclude that the trial court properly determined that Defendant was not eligible for community corrections because Defendant was convicted under the DFSZ Act and we affirm the convictions.

Sullivan County Court of Criminal Appeals 08/20/19
David N. Shaver v. State of Tennessee
E2018-01862-CCA-R3-PC

Petitioner, David N. Shaver, appeals the Grainger County Circuit Court’s denial of his petition for post-conviction relief. Petitioner asserts that he received ineffective assistance of counsel in connection with his guilty plea proceedings. Specifically, he contends that trial counsel failed to properly explain the terms of the plea agreement and failed to conduct a proper investigation into the charge against Petitioner. After a thorough review of the record and the applicable law, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Grainger County Court of Criminal Appeals 08/20/19
Jeremy Paul Barmmer v. Joy Denise Staininger
E2018-02058-COA-R3-CV

This post-divorce appeal involves the trial court’s denial of a petition for modification of the parenting plan. Having carefully reviewed the record before us, we hold that the evidence supports the parenting plan determination and other rulings made by the court.

Sevier County Court of Appeals 08/19/19
B.W. Byrd Metal Fabricators, Inc. v. Alcoa, Inc.
E2018-01750-COA-R3-CV

This appeal involves a lease agreement for the storage of a friction welding/joiner machine. The original agreement was entered into by John F. Humphrey Metal Fabricators, Inc. and Aluminum Company of America. B. W. Byrd Metal Fabricators, Inc. is the successor in interest to John F. Humphrey Metal Fabricators, Inc. and Aluminum Company of America was formerly known as Alcoa, Inc. The trial court awarded to the plaintiff rent payments for the months of May and June 2012, plus interest at 1.5% per month, but it found that the plaintiff had failed to submit invoices to put the defendant on notice of a debt and neglected to mitigate its damages. The plaintiff appeals. We affirm in part and reverse in part and remand for further proceedings.

Knox County Court of Appeals 08/19/19
State of Tennessee v. Jeffrey Allen Judkins
M2018-00704-CCA-R3-CD

The Defendant, Jeffrey Allen Judkins, appeals his jury conviction for aggravated robbery, for which he received a sentence of
twenty-two years’ incarceration. In this direct appeal, the Defendant alleges that the evidence was insufficient to establish his participation in the robbery. Following our review of the record and the applicable authorities, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Lawrence County Court of Criminal Appeals 08/19/19
State of Tennessee v. Ronald Ailey
E2017-02359-CCA-R3-CD

The Defendant, Ronald Ailey, was convicted by a jury of two counts of aggravated assault. Thereafter, the trial court imposed concurrent terms of four and one-half years, denied the Defendant’s request for judicial diversion, and ordered the Defendant to serve six months’ incarceration before being released on supervised probation. Upon the Defendant’s motion for new trial, he argued that he received ineffective assistance of counsel due to trial counsel’s failure to call exculpatory witnesses, failure to investigate and prepare for trial, failure to impeach certain State’s witnesses, failure to prepare the Defendant to testify, failure to object to improper questioning of the Defendant on crossexamination, and failure to adequately advise the Defendant during plea negotiations. On appeal, the Defendant contends that the trial court erred by denying him judicial diversion or total probation and by applying certain enhancement factors. He also challenges the trial court’s ruling that he received the effective assistance of counsel at trial. Upon a thorough review of the record and the applicable law, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Hamblen County Court of Criminal Appeals 08/19/19
Pamela Dallas v. Shelby County Board of Education
W2018-01661-COA-R3-CV

Dismissed teacher filed an action against the school board under the Teacher Tenure Act, or alternatively, under the Continuing Contract Law. The board of education filed a motion for summary judgment as to both claims, which the trial court ultimately granted. We conclude that the trial court did not err in granting summary judgment under the Teacher Tenure Act because the plaintiff teacher was not tenured at the time of her dismissal. However, we reverse the grant of summary judgment on the plaintiff teacher’s claim under the Continuing Contract Law.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 08/19/19
Tammy L. Edwards v. Charles Edwards, Jr.
E2019-00518-COA-R3-CV

This appeal concerns a post-divorce proceeding for contempt. Husband filed a petition for contempt alleging that Wife had failed to pay certain payments ordered by the trial court. The trial court dismissed Husband’s petition. Due to the deficiencies in Husband’s brief, we find that he has waived consideration of any issues on appeal and hereby dismiss the appeal.

Knox County Court of Appeals 08/19/19
Daniel Harvey, et al. v. Shelby County, Tennessee, et al.
W2018-01747-COA-R3-CV

Plaintiffs filed a complaint against multiple governmental entities for flood damages to their property. Each defendant filed a pre-trial motion to dismiss and/or a motion for summary judgment. The trial court granted judgment on the pleadings and summary judgment, finding that Plaintiffs’ claims were barred by the applicable statute of limitations. Plaintiffs appeal. For the reasons stated herein, the decision of the trial court is affirmed in part, vacated in part, and remanded for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 08/16/19
State of Tennessee v. Dedrick Lamont Lindsey
E2018-01502-CCA-R3-CD

Defendant, Dedrick Lamont Lindsey, appeals the trial court’s order revoking his probation and imposing his sentence. Defendant argues: (1) that the State failed to present “any substantial evidence” to support the trial court’s finding that Defendant violated his probation; (2) that the trial court erroneously admitted a witness’s recorded statement to police; and (3) that he received ineffective assistance of counsel at the probation revocation hearing. Following a thorough review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Hamilton County Court of Criminal Appeals 08/16/19
State of Tennessee v. Michael David Carter and Steven Edward Carter
M2018-01329-CCA-R3-CD

Following a jury trial, Michael David Carter (Michael Carter) was convicted of aggravated robbery and aggravated assault and Steven Edward Carter (Steven Carter) was convicted of facilitation of aggravated robbery and aggravated assault. Michael Carter was sentenced to twenty years for aggravated robbery, and Steven Carter was sentenced to nine years for facilitation of aggravated robbery. The trial court merged the aggravated assault convictions into the aggravated robbery convictions without imposing a sentence or entering a judgment of conviction for aggravated assault. On appeal, Defendants contend that: (1) the evidence presented at trial was insufficient to support their convictions; (2) the prosecutor improperly made a “Golden Rule” closing argument; and (3) the trial court erred in applying Tennessee Rules of Evidence 608 and 609 to exclude evidence of criminal charges pending against the victim at the time of trial. Michael Carter also contends that the trial court erred in sentencing him as a Range II offender and that his sentence was excessive. We remand for sentencing on the merged aggravated assault convictions and entry of a judgment of conviction for each Defendant pursuant to State v. Berry, 503 S.W.3d 360 (Tenn. 2015). We affirm the judgments of the trial court in all other respects.

Sumner County Court of Criminal Appeals 08/16/19
Joshua R. Starner v. State of Tennessee
M2018-01015-CCA-R3-PC

The Petitioner, Joshua R. Starner, appeals the denial of post-conviction relief, arguing that he received ineffective assistance of trial counsel and that counsel’s actions deprived him of his right to testify at trial. We affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Montgomery County Court of Criminal Appeals 08/16/19
Scripps Media, Inc., Et Al. v. Tennessee Department of Mental Health And Substance Abuse Services, Et Al.
M2018-02011-COA-R3-CV

This appeal concerns a request for public records. Phil Williams (“Mr. Williams”), a reporter, requested records from the Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services (“TDMHSAS”) and the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (“TBI”) (“the State,” collectively) concerning an alleged affair between two State officials that may have involved public funds. The State refused on the basis that the records were part of an ongoing criminal investigation. Mr. Williams and his employer, Scripps Media, Inc. (“Scripps”), (“Petitioners,” collectively) then filed a petition in the Chancery Court for Davidson County (“the Trial Court”) seeking the records via the Tennessee Public Records Act (“the TPRA”), Tenn. Code Ann. § 10-7-101 et seq. Before the petition was heard, the investigation ended and the State produced the records. The Trial Court found the public interest exception applied notwithstanding the petition’s mootness and determined that the records were exempted from disclosure by Tenn. R. Crim. P. 16. Petitioners appealed. As did the Trial Court, we find this to be a matter of public interest warranting resolution even though moot. We hold that non-investigative public records made in the ordinary course of business, capable of being accessed from their inception by citizens of Tennessee, do not become exempt from disclosure because of the initiation of a criminal investigation in which they become relevant. Finding the State’s legal argument reasonable although erroneous, we decline Petitioners’ request for attorney’s fees under the TPRA. We affirm, in part, and reverse, in part, the judgment of the Trial Court. 

Davidson County Court of Appeals 08/16/19
Marilyn Kay Anderson v. James Cephas Anderson
M2018-01248-COA-R3-CV

This appeal arises from a divorce. All the issues pertain to the classification, valuation, and equitable division of three large tracts of land. Husband acquired two of the tracts before the marriage: a 197-acre tract and a 103-acre tract. Both of these tracts were used in Husband’s farming operation before and during the marriage. During the marriage, Husband and Wife built their marital residence on a portion of the 197-acre tract. Husband acquired the third tract during the marriage but after the parties separated. Wife’s name is not on any of the deeds. Wife contends that the tracts Husband owned prior to the marriage transmuted into marital property. Alternatively, she contends their appreciation in value during the marriage was marital property. Wife also contends the third tract was marital property because Husband purchased it with marital funds from their joint bank account during the marriage. The trial court classified the 197-acre tract and the 103-acre tract as Husband’s separate property and held that none of the land transmuted into marital property. The trial court also concluded that Wife was not entitled to an interest in the appreciation of the properties because she did not substantially contribute to their maintenance or increase in value. The trial court classified the marital residence—that being the improvement but not any of the land associated with the marital residence—as marital property. As for the tract Husband acquired during the marriage, the court ruled that it was Husband’s separate property because Husband purchased it with his separate funds. This appeal followed. Based on the parties’ treatment and use of some of the 197-acre tract on Highland Road as their marital residence, it is evident that the parties intended for some portion of the land to transmute into marital property. Therefore, we reverse the trial court’s determination that the entire 197-acre tract remained Husband’s separate property and remand for the trial court to identify that portion of the land the parties treated and used as part of their marital residence, classify that land as marital property, and determine its value. Based on this change of classification, the trial court should also consider whether the change in value necessitates a revision of the equitable division of the marital estate and, if so, enter judgment accordingly. In all other respects, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Robertson County Court of Appeals 08/16/19
Eric Dubuclet v. Tennessee Department of Human Services
M2018-01309-COA-R3-CV

The Tennessee Department of Human Services denied Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits to a two-person household based upon its determination that the household’s income exceeded the eligibility requirements.  After a final order was entered by the Department, the household petitioned the Chancery Court of Davidson County for review pursuant to Tennessee Code Annotated section 4-5-322.  The Chancellor affirmed the decision of the agency and dismissed the petition for judicial review; the household appeals the decision.  Upon our review, we affirm, finding that the Department’s decision was not in violation of constitutional or statutory provisions, arbitrary or capricious, in excess of statutory authority, made upon unlawful procedure, or unsupported by substantial and material evidence.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 08/16/19
Natchez Trace Youth Acadamy Et Al v. Christopher Tidwell
M2018-01311-SC-R3-WC

Christopher Tidwell (“Employee”) suffered facial injuries during the course of his employment at Natchez Trace Youth Academy (“Employer”) while restraining a resident during an altercation. Employee filed this workers’ compensation claim alleging both physical and psychological injuries resulting from the incident. After a trial, the court concluded Employee did not make a meaningful return to work and awarded benefits for physical and psychological injuries, using a 4.85 multiplier. Employer has appealed, claiming the trial court erred in concluding Employee failed to make a meaningful return to work; in awarding additional temporary benefits; in determining Employee suffered a compensable psychological injury; and in awarding certain discretionary costs. The appeal has been referred 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 trial court’s award of benefits beyond the statutory 1.5 cap, additional temporary benefits, and its finding of psychological injury. We reverse the award of certain discretionary costs.

Humphreys County Workers Compensation Panel 08/16/19
Carol Nolan v. Goodyear Tire and Rubber Co., ET AL.
W2018-01382-SC-R3-WC

Carol Nolan (“Employee”) was employed by Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company (“Employer”). The trial court found that Employee was permanently and totally disabled following work-related injuries to her back and knees in April 2011. The trial court apportioned 85% liability of the award to Employer and 15% to the Tennessee Second Injury Fund. Employer has appealed the trial court’s finding that Employee is permanently and totally disabled and the apportionment of liability for permanent and total disability benefits. Employer’s appeal has been referred to this 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. After review, we conclude that the evidence does not preponderate against the trial court’s decision. Therefore, we affirm the trial court’s judgment.

Obion County Workers Compensation Panel 08/16/19
State of Tennessee v. Karen Sarah Thomas, Alias
E2018-00353-CCA-R3-CD

The Defendant, Karen Sarah Thomas, alias, appeals her jury convictions for aggravated stalking. In this direct appeal, the Defendant alleges that the evidence was insufficient to support her convictions and that the trial court erred when it allowed the State to introduce evidence of an out-of-courtroom event that took place during the trial. Following our review of the record and the applicable authorities, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 08/15/19
State of Tennessee v. Quincy D. Scott
E2018-02271-CCA-R3-CD

The Appellant, Quincy D. Scott, appeals as of right from the Bradley County Criminal Court’s judgment revoking his probation. 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 habeas corpus court pursuant to Rule 20 of the Rules of the Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals.

Bradley County Court of Criminal Appeals 08/15/19
State of Tennessee v. Krysten Renae Glover
M2018-01410-CCA-R3-CD

The Defendant, Krysten Renae Glover, entered an open guilty plea to one count of the sale of 0.5 grams or more of methamphetamine and one count of the sale of methamphetamine in an amount less than 0.5 grams. The trial court held a sentencing hearing and imposed an effective nine-year sentence to be served in confinement. The Defendant appeals, arguing that the trial court erred by denying her probation. We conclude that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in sentencing, and we affirm the judgments.

Wayne County Court of Criminal Appeals 08/15/19
Nicole Pamblanco v. State of Tennessee
M2018-01260-CCA-R3-PC

The Petitioner, Nicole Pamblanco, appeals the Montgomery County Circuit Court’s denial of her petition for post-conviction relief from her convictions of aggravated child neglect, a Class A felony, and reckless homicide, a Class E felony, and effective sentence of fifteen years. On appeal, the Petitioner contends that she received the ineffective assistance of counsel because trial counsel failed to call a psychologist who had evaluated her and prepared a report to testify on her behalf. Based upon the oral arguments, the record, and the parties’ briefs, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Montgomery County Court of Criminal Appeals 08/15/19
Sedrick Darion Mitchell v. State of Tennessee
M2018-00975-CCA-R3-PC

The Petitioner, Sedrick Darion Mitchell, appeals from the Bedford County Circuit Court’s denial of his petition for post-conviction relief. The Petitioner contends that his trial counsel was ineffective for not challenging the validity of the indictment. Discerning no error, we affirm the judgment of the post conviction court.

Bedford County Court of Criminal Appeals 08/15/19
State of Tennessee v. Benjamin Foust
E2017-02420-CCA-R3-CD

The Defendant, Benjamin Foust, was convicted of ten counts of felony murder, two counts of first degree premeditated murder, four counts of especially aggravated robbery, two counts of aggravated arson, and two counts of possession of a firearm while having a prior felony conviction involving the use of violence or force. The trial court’s merger of the various convictions resulted in two felony murder convictions, two especially aggravated robbery convictions, one aggravated arson conviction, and one firearm conviction. The trial court imposed an effective sentence of two consecutive terms of life imprisonment plus 105 years. On appeal, the Defendant contends that (1) the evidence is insufficient to support his convictions; (2) the trial court erred in failing to grant the Defendant’s motion to sever or bifurcate the firearm charges; (3) the trial court erred in admitting evidence of the Defendant’s drug use; (4) the trial court improperly admitted several autopsy photographs; (5) the trial court provided an improper answer to a question from the jury posed during deliberations; and (6) the trial court erred in sentencing the Defendant. We conclude that the trial court erred in ordering the parties to stipulate to the Defendant’s prior felony convictions and that the error was not harmless as to the firearm convictions. Accordingly, we reverse the Defendant’s firearm convictions and remand for a new trial as to those convictions. We otherwise affirm the trial court’s judgments.

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 08/15/19