In Re Ezra C.
M2023-00927-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge John W. McClarty
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Ronald Thurman

This action involves the termination of a father’s parental rights to his minor child. Following a bench trial, the court found that clear and convincing evidence existed to establish the statutory ground of termination of abandonment by failure to visit. The court also found that termination was in the best interest of the child. We affirm the trial court’s termination decision.

Putnam Court of Appeals

State of Tennessee v. Travis Ruzicka
W2023-00134-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Kyle A. Hixson
Trial Court Judge: Judge Chris Craft

A Shelby County jury convicted the Defendant, Travis Ruzicka, of rape of a child and aggravated sexual battery. He appeals, contending that (1) the forensic interview did not meet the admissibility requirements of Tennessee Code Annotated section 24-7-123; (2) the trial court erred by admitting the forensic interview of the victim after the victim had testified, thus depriving the Defendant of the opportunity to contemporaneously cross-examine the victim as to the contents of the interview recording; and (3) the victim was incompetent to testify at trial and thus unavailable for cross-examination. We affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Shelby Court of Criminal Appeals

Robert Brooks v. State of Tennessee
W2023-01492-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge Camille R. McMullen
Trial Court Judge: Judge Chris Craft

The Petitioner, Robert Brooks, acting pro se, appeals the denial of his petition seeking relief from his convictions of reckless endangerment, aggravated robbery, two counts of aggravated assault, and one count of assault, for which he received an effective sentence of ten years, eleven months, and twenty-nine days confinement. State v. Brooks, No. W2020-01026-CCA-R3-CD, 2021 WL 4936969, at *1 (Tenn. Crim. App. Oct. 22, 2021), no perm. app. filed. As we understand the issues raised in the Petitioner’s pro se brief, he contends (1) trial counsel was ineffective based on certain statements made during closing argument conceding the Petitioner’s guilt; (2) trial counsel’s failure to exclude an affidavit of complaint which contained alleged perjury; and (3) the trial court lacked jurisdiction to prosecute his case because the affidavit of complaint lacked probable cause.1 Upon our review, we affirm.

Shelby Court of Criminal Appeals

Hector William Zarate Capriel v. State of Tennessee
E2023-00892-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge James Curwood Witt, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Alex E. Pearson

The petitioner, Hector William Zarate Capriel, appeals the denial of his petition for postconviction
relief, which petition challenged his guilty-pleaded conviction of misdemeanor
child abuse, alleging that he was deprived of the effective assistance of counsel. Discerning
no error, we affirm the denial of post-conviction relief.

Hamblen Court of Criminal Appeals

Niel Prosser, et al. v. Memphis and Shelby County Board of Adjustment, et al.
W2023-01057-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Arnold B. Goldin
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor JoeDae L. Jenkins

This case involves questions of zoning of non-residential real property located in a residential zoning district in Memphis. The genesis of the present dispute is specifically traceable to the Memphis and Shelby County Division of Planning and Development’s issuance of a zoning letter, wherein it was stated that use of the property at issue in this matter as a “Philanthropic Institution with Offices and Clinic” is a use permitted in accordance with a prior 2017 variance from zoning. The appellants herein, who own a home near the subject property, took umbrage with the zoning letter and appealed to the Memphis and Shelby County Board of Adjustment. When the Board of Adjustment rejected the appeal, thereby upholding the zoning letter, the appellants filed a petition for a writ of certiorari in Chancery Court. The Chancery Court ultimately upheld the action of the Board of Adjustment, following which the present appeal ensued. For the reasons stated herein, we reverse the Chancery Court’s decision to affirm the decision of the Board of Adjustment and remand for the entry of an order reversing the decision of the Board of Adjustment.

Shelby Court of Appeals

Tina Marie Eltzroth v. Danny Ray Eltzroth
E2023-00484-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Michael Swiney
Trial Court Judge: Judge Rex Henry Ogle

This appeal concerns setting aside a default judgment in a divorce case. Tina Marie Eltzroth (“Wife”) filed for divorce in the Circuit Court for Sevier County (“the Trial Court”) against Danny Ray Eltzroth (“Husband”). Husband was served but failed to timely answer. Wife filed a motion for default and notice of hearing. Husband, who was staying at multiple places during this time, failed to appear for the hearing. The Trial Court granted Wife a default judgment. Husband later filed a motion to set aside, which the Trial Court granted. Wife appeals. We find no abuse of discretion in the Trial Court’s granting of Husband’s motion to set aside the default judgment. We affirm.

Sevier Court of Appeals

Rodney DeWayne Barrentine v. Jimmy J. Kinsler
E2023-01274-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas R. Frierson, II
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Douglas T. Jenkins

This is an appeal from a bench trial wherein the trial court found that the defendant had
materially breached a contract for the sale of real property by failing to complete the sale. The trial court further found that although the plaintiff had also breached the contract by failing to provide sufficient proof of funds within the contractual time frame, such breach was not material and the defendant was still obligated to perform his contractual duties. The trial court entered an order directing the defendant’s specific performance of the contract and awarding to the plaintiff reasonable attorney’s fees and costs, as provided for in the parties’ contract. The defendant has appealed. Discerning no reversible error, we affirm the trial court’s judgment. Pursuant to the parties’ contract, we grant the plaintiff’s request for reasonable attorney’s fees on appeal. We remand the case to the trial court for enforcement of the contract and for a determination of the plaintiff’s reasonable attorney’s fees and costs incurred on appeal.

Hancock Court of Appeals

Benjamin L. Folkins Et Al. v. Healthcare Group (Hong Kong) Co. Limited Et Al.
E2023-00759-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Kristi M. Davis
Trial Court Judge: Judge Kyle E. Hedrick

Defendants appeal from a trial court judgment finding the defendants in civil contempt of a bond order securing a judgment against those defendants and others. Because the underlying judgment on which the contempt finding is based has since been vacated by this Court, the contempt finding is also vacated.

Hamilton Court of Appeals

State of Tennessee v. Byron Jerome Hix
M2023-01566-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge John W. Campbell, Sr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Barry R. Tidwell

The Defendant, Byron Jerome Hix, appeals the trial court’s reinstatement of his effective eleven-year sentence for his Class B and Class C felony drug convictions following the revocation of his probation, arguing that the trial court abused its discretion by ordering his original sentence into effect and by denying his request for credit for the five-plus years he successfully served on probation. Based on our review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Rutherford Court of Criminal Appeals

Vaughn Harris v. State of Tennessee
M2023-01025-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Matthew J. Wilson
Trial Court Judge: Judge Cynthia Chappell

A Davidson County Grand Jury indicted Vaughn Harris, Petitioner, for two counts of coercion of a witness in case number 2019-D-3061. Petitioner also separately faced charges in case number 2013-C-2114 of attempted first degree murder (Count 1) and employing a firearm during the commission of or attempt to commit a dangerous felony (Count 2). Petitioner entered global pleas of guilty in both cases—pleading to the indictment in case number 2019-D-3061 and to reduced charges of attempted voluntary manslaughter and felon in possession of a weapon in case number 2013-C-2114. The trial court sentenced Petitioner to an effective term of six years in confinement followed by six years of community corrections. Petitioner filed a timely petition for post-conviction relief, which the post-conviction court denied after a hearing. On appeal, Petitioner alleges he was denied the effective assistance of counsel and that his guilty pleas were entered involuntarily because of coercion. After review, we affirm the judgment of the postconviction court.

Davidson Court of Criminal Appeals

State of Tennessee v. Dontell Dewayne Sawyers
M2023-01781-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge John W. Campbell, Sr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Jennifer Smith

The Defendant, Dontell Dewayne Sawyers, appeals the Davidson County Criminal Court's summary denial of his motion to correct clerical errors in his judgment of conviction pursuant to Tennessee Rule of Criminal Procedure 36. The State responds that the Defendant has waived his claims because he failed to prepare an adequate record on appeal. Based on our review, we agree with the State and affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Davidson Court of Criminal Appeals

Family Trust Services LLC et al. v. Green Wise Homes LLC et al.
M2021-01350-SC-R11-CV
Authoring Judge: Justice Dwight E. Tarwater
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Anne C. Martin

In this case, plaintiffs alleged defendants committed fraud in connection with their property rights. After a jury trial, plaintiffs moved for a new trial asking the trial court to fulfill its role as thirteenth juror. The trial court denied the motion, and the Court of Appeals reversed upon finding the trial court misconceived its role as thirteenth juror. When a trial court misconceives its role as thirteenth juror or applies an incorrect standard, remand for a new trial historically has been the only remedy available under common law. In this appeal, we consider whether our law should allow the alternative remedy of remand for the trial court to fulfill its role as thirteenth juror under Tennessee Rule of Civil Procedure 59.06. We hold that remand for the trial court to fulfill its role as thirteenth juror is an appropriate remedy when a civil trial court misconceives that role or applies an incorrect standard. We further hold that the lower courts erred in finding that a claim for unjust enrichment requires a voluntary conferral of a benefit. Finally, we hold that our law does not recognize a claim for misappropriation or conversion of a right of redemption. We affirm in part and reverse in part the decision of the Court of Appeals, and remand for proceedings consistent with this opinion.

Davidson Supreme Court

State of Tennessee, ex rel., Alicia Janelle Collins v. Vikramjeet Sethi Singh
W2022-00239-COA-R3-JV
Authoring Judge: Judge Jeffrey Usman
Trial Court Judge: Judge Harold W. Horne

The State of Tennessee, on behalf of Mother, sought child support for a minor child. The trial court, finding that there was no reliable evidence of Father’s income, imputed the statutory median gross income. Father appeals, asserting that the trial court erred in setting child support above his stated income and in finding that the evidence of his income was unreliable. Father also asserts that the court’s oral finding that he was willfully underemployed was procedurally deficient. We conclude that the trial court erred in imputing the statutory amount, vacate the award of child support, and remand for further proceedings.

Shelby Court of Appeals

Leiby Goldberger Et Al. v. Thomas J. Scott Et Al.
M2022-01772-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge Frank G. Clement, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Anne C. Martin

This is an appeal from the denial of a petition to dismiss under the Tennessee Public Participation Act (“TPPA”), Tenn. Code Ann. §§ 20-17-101 to -110. The defendantpetitioner asserted that this action was filed by the plaintiffs in response to his “exercise of the right of free speech,” which the TPPA defines as “communication made in connection with a matter of public concern.” Specifically, the defendant-petitioner asserted that he was exercising his right of free speech regarding a matter of public concern when he made public the plaintiffs’ failure to disclose their involvement in prior franchise litigation and regulatory actions as required by franchising laws. The trial court denied the petition, finding that the TPPA did not apply because the claims did not involve issues or matters of public concern and free speech as referenced in the TPPA. This appeal followed. We respectfully disagree with this finding. We conclude that the defendant-petitioner presented prima facie evidence that the plaintiffs commenced this action in response to the defendantpetitioner’s exercise of free speech on a matter of public concern related to goods, products, or services in the marketplace. Specifically, the defendant-petitioner’s public dissemination of information via a website alleging that the plaintiffs were continuing to market franchises while withholding material information required to be disclosed by the Federal Trade Commission Franchise Rule. See 16 C.F.R. pt. 436. Accordingly, we reverse the judgment of the trial court and remand for further proceedings.

Davidson Court of Appeals

State of Tennessee v. Juan Deshaun Hoyle
W2023-01129-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Jill Bartee Ayers
Trial Court Judge: Judge Donald H. Allen

Defendant, Juan Deshaun Hoyle, was convicted by a Madison County jury of two counts of unlawful possession of a firearm after having been convicted of a felony crime of violence (counts one and two), and one count each of unlawful possession of a firearm after having been convicted of a felony drug offense (count three), and simple possession of marijuana (count four). The trial court imposed an effective twenty-year sentence. On appeal, Defendant argues that there was insufficient evidence that he possessed a firearm and that the sentence imposed was not the least severe measure necessary. Following review of the entire record, oral arguments, briefs of the parties, and the applicable law, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Madison Court of Criminal Appeals

State of Tennessee v. Anthony E. Perry
W2023-01557-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Timothy L. Easter
Trial Court Judge: Judge Chris Craft

Nearly 29 years ago, Anthony E. Perry, Defendant, kidnapped and killed Dorothy Webber. Defendant now appeals from the dismissal of his motion to correct a clerical error under Tennessee Rule of Criminal Procedure 36. In the motion, Defendant argued that he was entitled to release eligibility after serving 25 years in incarceration on a life sentence for first degree murder, that his sentence was illegal because there was no notation in the special conditions box on the judgment form to inform the Department of Correction to calculate his release date under Tennessee Code Annotated section 40-35-501(i), and that his release eligibility calculation violated the ex post facto clauses of the Tennessee and United States constitutions. Because the trial court did not abuse its discretion in dismissing the motion, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Shelby Court of Criminal Appeals

State of Tennessee v. Todd Allen Robbins
W2023-01102-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Tom Greenholtz
Trial Court Judge: Judge Donald H. Allen

A Chester County jury convicted the Defendant, Todd Allen Robbins, of theft of a vehicle, among other offenses. On appeal, the Defendant and the State agree that the proof did not establish the vehicle’s value at the time it was stolen. We agree and modify the Defendant’s conviction to a Class A misdemeanor offense. We respectfully remand the case for entry of a modified judgment of conviction reflecting the modified offense class and a sentence of eleven months and twenty-nine days.

Chester Court of Criminal Appeals

Susan B. Ferkin v. Katherine Bell
W2023-00514-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Carma Dennis McGee
Trial Court Judge: Judge Damita J. Dandridge

This case involves a petition for judicial review filed pursuant to the Tennessee Public Records Act, Tenn. Code Ann. § 10-7-503, et seq., after the petitioner requested audio recordings of a third-party’s post-conviction hearings from a court reporter.  The circuit court dismissed the petition.  The petitioner appeals.  For the following reasons, the appeal is hereby dismissed.

Shelby Court of Appeals

In Re Leah T.
M2023-01338-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge J. Steven Stafford
Trial Court Judge: Judge J. Mark Rogers

In the second appeal in this case, Mother appeals the trial court’s determination that termination of her parental rights is in her child’s best interest. Discerning no reversible error, we affirm.

Rutherford Court of Appeals

In Re Quentin G.
E2023-01632-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge Carma Dennis McGee
Trial Court Judge: Judge Amanda Magan Worley

This appeal arises from a petition to terminate parental rights. The trial court found by clear and convincing evidence that one ground for termination existed as to the father based on a prior adjudication of severe child abuse and that termination was in the best interest of the child. The father appeals. We affirm the trial court’s decision and remand.

Court of Appeals

State of Tennessee v. Jaylon Lebron Hill
E2023-01308-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Timothy L. Easter
Trial Court Judge: Judge Amanda B. Dunn

Defendant, Jaylon Lebron Hill, appeals his Hamilton County Criminal Court convictions
for second degree murder, attempted second degree murder, reckless endangerment, and
possession of a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony, for which he received
an effective sentence of 23 years’ incarceration. On appeal, Defendant challenges the
sufficiency of the convicting evidence and the trial court’s instructions to the jury. Finding
no error, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Hamilton Court of Criminal Appeals

Richard H. Niehaus Et Al. v. Darnell Wade Houfek Et Al.
M2023-00992-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Arnold B. Goldin
Trial Court Judge: Judge David D. Wolfe

This appeal, arising from a land dispute, concerns the trial court’s dismissal of several
claims against multiple parties pursuant to motions to dismiss filed under Rule 12.02(6) of
the Tennessee Rules of Civil Procedure. Although the terms of an “Agreed Final Order”
reflected that the Appellants waived their right to appeal any issue regarding two of the
parties in this case, the same order also signaled that nothing prevented the Appellants from
appealing matters involving two other individual parties. Through the present appeal, the
Appellants challenge the dismissal of their claims against these other individual parties.
Although we largely affirm the trial court’s dismissal order, we reverse in part.
Specifically, we hold that, on account of certain allegations that were pled pertaining to the
cutting of trees on the Appellants’ property, the wholesale dismissal of one of the individual
parties was improper.

Dickson Court of Appeals

Tyrone E. Murphy v. State of Tennessee
E2023-01243-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Timothy L. Easter
Trial Court Judge: Judge Barry A. Steelman

Tyrone E. Murphy, Petitioner, appeals from the Hamilton County Circuit Court’s denial of
his petition for post-conviction relief from his convictions for first degree premeditated
murder and tampering with evidence. Petitioner contends that the post-conviction court
erred in denying relief based upon his claims of ineffective assistance of trial counsel.
Based on our review, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Hamilton Court of Criminal Appeals

Tino C. Sutton v. State of Tennessee
M2024-00760-COA-T10B-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas R. Frierson, II
Trial Court Judge: Senior Judge Robert E. Lee Davies

This is an interlocutory appeal as of right, pursuant to Tennessee Supreme Court Rule 10B, from the trial court’s orders denying the petitioner’s two pro se motions to recuse the trial court judge in the underlying restoration of citizenship action. The petitioner based his first motion to recuse in the instant case entirely upon actions and rulings made by the trial court judge in a previous civil case. He based his second motion to recuse on the same actions and rulings plus two additional orders, one entered by the trial court judge while the petitioner’s appeal of the first recusal denial was pending. Discerning no reversible error in the trial court judge’s denial of the motions to recuse, we affirm.

Bedford Court of Appeals

Jay William Edwards v. State of Tennessee
E2023-00410-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Camille R. McMullen
Trial Court Judge: Judge Hector I. Sanchez

The Petitioner, Jay William Edwards, appeals from the denial of his petition seeking post-conviction relief from his convictions of aggravated kidnapping, assault, and interfering with an emergency call, for which he received an effective sentence of ten years’ confinement. On appeal, he argues: (1) trial counsels were ineffective in failing to object to (a) a constructive amendment to the indictment and (b) an incomplete White instruction; 1 and 2) he was deprived of his right to testify at trial.2 After review, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Knox Court of Criminal Appeals