Court Opinions

Format: 09/26/2022
Format: 09/26/2022
Joseph Cannistra v. William Charles (Billy) Brown - M2021-00833-COA-R3-CV
M2021-00833-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge:
Trial Court Judge:
Giles County Circuit, Criminal & Chancery Courts 09/26/22
Joseph Cannistra v. William Charles (Billy) Brown
M2021-00833-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Jeffrey Usman
Trial Court Judge: Judge Christopher V. Sockwell

This appeal involves a challenge to a circuit court’s award to a landlord for a deficiency in lease payments.  The landlord and tenant offered conflicting testimony regarding the terms of the parties’ agreement.  The circuit court judge found the landlord’s description of the agreement more convincing than the tenant’s and awarded the landlord a judgment in the amount of $9,800 as well as costs.  On appeal, the tenant insists the circuit court judge erred in his assessment of the conflicting testimony.  We find the trial court’s determination to be supported by the record and therefore affirm the judgment of the trial court. 

Giles County Court of Appeals 09/26/22
State of Tennessee v. Isaiah M.
W2021-01133-COA-R3-JV
Authoring Judge: Judge Carma Dennis McGee
Trial Court Judge: Judge Donald H. Allen

This appeal arises out of delinquency proceedings that originated in the Madison County Juvenile Court. The State filed an initial delinquency petition, but the petition was unverified. The defect in the petition remained undiscovered by the State until the first witness was sworn at the adjudicatory hearing. The juvenile court dismissed the petition and found that jeopardy attached. The State filed a second verified delinquency petition. However, the juvenile court dismissed the petition finding that it violated principles of double jeopardy. The State appealed to the circuit court. The circuit court dismissed the petition finding that jeopardy attached on the initial petition. The State appeals. We reverse and remand.

Madison County Court of Appeals 09/23/22
Michael Halliburton v. Blake Ballin, et al.
W2022-01208-COA-T10B-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Carma Dennis McGee
Trial Court Judge: Judge Gina C. Higgins

This is an accelerated interlocutory appeal from the denial of motions for recusal of the trial judge. Having carefully reviewed the record provided by the appellant, we affirm the decision of the trial court denying the motions.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 09/23/22
Charles Edward Meriweather v. State of Tennessee
M2021-00990-CCA-R3-HC
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert L. Holloway, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Jennifer Smith

Petitioner, Charles Edward Meriweather, appeals the denial of his petition for writ of habeas corpus. Petitioner argues that his judgments of conviction are void because the trial court was without jurisdiction to accept his 2011 guilty pleas. Following a thorough review, we affirm.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 09/23/22
Jabari Issa Mandela a/k/a John Wooden v. Tennessee Department of Correction
W2021-01219-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge J. Steven Stafford
Trial Court Judge: Judge R. Lee Moore, Jr.

Appellant appeals the assessment of costs against him following the dismissal of his petition for a writ of certiorari. Discerning no reversible error, we affirm.

Lake County Court of Appeals 09/23/22
In Re Hope G. Et Al.
E2021-01521-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Michael Swiney
Trial Court Judge: Judge Beth Boniface

This appeal arises from the termination of a father’s parental rights to his minor child, upon the statutory grounds of abandonment by failure to visit and financially support the child. The Greene County Circuit Court (“Trial Court”) denied the ground of failure to manifest an ability and willingness to assume custody of and financial responsibility for the child, pursuant to Tenn. Code Ann. § 36-1-113(g)(14). The Trial Court further found that termination of the father’s parental rights was in the child’s best interest. We reverse the statutory ground for the termination of the father’s parental rights of abandonment by failure to visit, determining that the father had proven by a preponderance of the evidence that his failure to visit was not willful. We affirm the remaining ground for the termination of the father’s parental rights, as well as the trial court’s determination that termination of the father’s parental rights is in the child’s best interest.

Greene County Court of Appeals 09/23/22
In Re Navaiya R. et al.
M2021-01387-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge Carma Dennis McGee
Trial Court Judge: Judge Tim Barnes

This appeal involves a petition to terminate parental rights.  The juvenile court found by clear and convincing evidence that two grounds for termination existed as to the father: (1) failure to manifest an ability and willingness to assume custody and (2) incarceration under a ten-year sentence.  The juvenile court also found that termination was in the best interests of the children.  The father appeals.  We affirm.

Montgomery County Court of Appeals 09/22/22
Lisa Neely Artry v. Lester Ray Artry
W2020-00224-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Kenny Armstrong
Trial Court Judge: Judge Valerie L. Smith

In this divorce case, we do not reach the substantive issues concerning the trial court’s division of the marital estate due to the fact that the trial court failed to designate all property as either marital or separate, failed to assign values to all property, and failed to consider the factors set out in Tennessee Code Annotated section 36-4-121(c). As such, we vacate the trial court’s division of the marital estate and its denial of alimony. Because the trial court failed to resolve the parties’ dispute over the Tennessee Rule of Appellate Procedure 24 statement of the evidence by providing this Court with one cohesive statement, we reverse the trial court’s order concerning the statement of the evidence.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 09/22/22
State of Tennessee v. Douglas Mac Richmond
M2021-01025-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge John W. Campbell Sr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Dee David Gay

The Defendant, Douglas Mac Richmond, pled guilty in the Sumner County Criminal Court to nine counts of sexual exploitation of a minor by electronic means, a Class B felony. Pursuant to the plea agreement, he received an effective sixteen-year sentence as a Range I, standard offender with the trial court to determine the manner of service of the sentence. After a sentencing hearing, the trial court ordered that he serve the sentence in confinement. On appeal, the Defendant claims that he was denied due process at sentencing because the trial court allowed unreliable hearsay testimony, “infused” the court’s religious beliefs into the court’s sentencing decision, failed to consider required statistical information from the Administrative Office of the Courts (“AOC”), and considered information outside the Defendant’s actual criminal conduct. The Defendant also claims that we should review the trial court’s sentencing decision de novo because the court did not follow the purposes and principles of sentencing and that we should grant his request for full probation or split confinement. Based on the oral arguments, the record, and the parties’ briefs, we conclude that the Defendant has not shown a violation of due process by the trial court but that a de novo review of the denial of alternative sentencing is warranted. Upon our de novo review, we conclude that the trial court properly ordered that the Defendant serve his effective sixteen-year sentence in confinement.

Sumner County Court of Criminal Appeals 09/22/22
Mark Brian Dobson v. State of Tennessee
M2021-00949-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Jill Bartee Ayers
Trial Court Judge: Judge Mark J. FIshburn

Petitioner, Mark Brian Dobson, appeals the denial of his post-conviction petition. Specifically, Petitioner alleges that trial counsel was ineffective for: failing to investigate the facts of the case or interview witnesses; failing to “prepare cross examination of State’s proof;” failing to file pretrial motion to redact from jail phone calls statements made by Petitioner’s mother referring to a gun; failing to “preserve a defense pursuant to State v. White, 382 S.W.3d 559 (Tenn. 2012);” failing to discuss mandatory consecutive sentencing with Petitioner; advising Petitioner to plead guilty “to a single count during the trial” and by failing to inform Petitioner of the consequences of his plea; failing to preserve issues for appeal; and failing to advise Petitioner to testify at trial in support of his claim of self-defense. Petitioner also claims that he is entitled to post-conviction relief due to the cumulative effect of the errors of counsel. Following our review of the entire record and the briefs of the parties, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 09/21/22
State of Tennessee v. Jessica Hartle Lumpkins
M2021-01144-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Jill Bartee Ayers
Trial Court Judge: Judge Montee Watkins

The State of Tennessee appeals the trial court’s dismissal of two counts of animal cruelty on the basis that an emu met the statutory definition of livestock under Tennessee Code Annotated section 39-14-201, that the animal control officer was not a statutorily qualified livestock examiner and that the animal control officer’s consultation with a licensed veterinarian failed to satisfy the requirements of the livestock examination statute. See T.C.A. § 39-14-211. We conclude that the emu was not livestock under the plain language of the statute and thus no livestock examination was required to proceed with charges under the animal cruelty statute. See T.C.A. § 39-14-202(2). Accordingly, we reverse the trial court’s dismissal of counts one and two and remand for further proceedings.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 09/21/22
In Re Jah'lila S., et al.
W2021-01199-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge Kenny Armstrong
Trial Court Judge: Judge Dan H. Michael

This is a termination of parental rights case. The trial court terminated Mother’s parental rights to her three children on the grounds of: 1) abandonment for failure to support under Tennessee Code Annotated section 36-1-113-(g)(1); 2) failure to comply with the permanency plan under section 36-1-113(g)(2); 3) persistence of the conditions that led to removal of the children under section 36-1-13(g)(3); and failure to manifest an ability and willingness to assume custody under section 36-1-113(g)(14). Mother’s parental rights to her youngest child were terminated on the additional ground of severe child abuse under section 36-1-113(g)(4). After determining that Father had failed to legitimate his children, the trial court terminated Father’s parental rights pursuant to section 36-1-113(g)(9)(A) for failure to support; failure to visit; failure to manifest an ability and willingness to assume custody; and a danger of risk of substantial harm. The trial court also determined that termination of Mother’s and Father’s parental rights is in the best interests of the children. Discerning no error, we affirm.

Shelby County 09/21/22
Derrick Lakeith Brown v. Marlinee C. Iverson
W2022-00045-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Per Curiam
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor JoeDae L. Jenkins

Appellant, Derrick Lakeith Brown, has appealed an order of the Shelby County Chancery Court that was entered on November 5, 2021. We determine that the November 5, 2021 order does not constitute a final appealable judgment. Therefore, this Court lacks jurisdiction to consider the appeal. The appeal is dismissed.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 09/21/22
Leon Denton v. State of Tennessee
W2021-01289-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Timothy L. Easter
Trial Court Judge: Judge James M. Lammey

Petitioner, Leon Denton, appeals the post-conviction court’s denial of his petition for post-conviction relief. On appeal, Petitioner raises several claims of ineffective assistance of counsel. After a thorough review, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 09/20/22
State of Tennessee v. Horatio Derelle Burford
E2021-00655-CCA-R#-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert W. Wedemeyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Sandra Donaghy

A Bradley County jury convicted the Defendant, Horatio Derelle Burford, of aggravated assault. The trial court sentenced the Defendant as a Range III offender to serve twelve years in the Tennessee Department of Correction. On appeal, the Defendant contends that the trial court failed to: (1) properly limit the State’s evidence about prior injuries to the victim; and (2) preclude the State from introducing improper photographic evidence during opening argument. After review, we affirm the trial court’s judgment.

Bradley County Court of Criminal Appeals 09/20/22
Sporting Club of Tennessee, Inc. v. Marshall County Tennessee Board of Zoning Appeals
M2021-01361-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Michael Swiney
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor J.B. Cox

This appeal concerns a zoning decision.  The Sporting Club of Tennessee, Inc. (“the Sporting Club”) filed an application with Marshall County, Tennessee for a special exception for a private park.  The club was to be situated on 285 acres of property and would feature a number of recreational activities like shooting.  It would have 150 members and corporate members along with their families and guests.  After a hearing, the Marshall County Board of Zoning Appeals (“the Board”) denied the Sporting Club’s application on grounds that the Sporting Club would not be low-impact, or passive, with respect to its surroundings.  The Sporting Club filed a petition for common law writ of certiorari in the Chancery Court for Marshall County (“the Trial Court”).  The Trial Court upheld the Board’s decision.  The Sporting Club appeals to this Court.  We conclude that the Board’s decision was supported by material evidence—namely, evidence concerning the Sporting Club’s 150 members and guests and the likely impact they would have on the property’s surroundings.  The Board’s decision neither was arbitrary, capricious, nor illegal.  We affirm.

Marshall County Court of Appeals 09/20/22
Deangelo Monteze Moody v. State of Tennessee
M2021-00605-CCA-R3-ENC
Authoring Judge: Judge John W. Campbell Sr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Mark J. Fishburn

The Petitioner, Deangelo Monteze Moody, appeals the denial of his petition for writ of error coram nobis and the summary dismissal of his amended petition for post-conviction relief. Based on our review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 09/20/22
State of Tennessee v. Zaciaro Moore
W2021-01352-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert W. Wedemeyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Chris Craft

A Shelby County jury convicted the Defendant, Zaciaro Moore, of especially aggravated robbery, aggravated assault, and theft of property valued at more than $1,000. The trial court sentenced the Defendant to a total effective sentence of eighteen years. On appeal, the Defendant contends that the evidence was insufficient to support his conviction for especially aggravated robbery based upon the State’s failure to prove the element of serious bodily injury. Following our review, we conclude that the evidence was sufficient to support the jury’s verdict, and we affirm the Defendant’s convictions. However, we must remand for a clerical error in the judgment form for theft of property in Count 3.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 09/19/22
State of Tennessee v. Charles Person-Gibson
W2021-01094-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Timothy L. Easter
Trial Court Judge: Judge Chris Craft

Charles Person-Gibson, Defendant, was indicted in a five-count indictment for first degree murder, felony murder, especially aggravated robbery, attempted aggravated robbery, and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. During trial, Defendant sought a mistrial on the basis that the State elicited improper testimony about Defendant’s criminal record. The trial court denied the motion. The jury found Defendant guilty of first degree murder, felony murder, attempted especially aggravated robbery, and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. Defendant was found not guilty of attempted aggravated robbery. The trial court merged the felony murder conviction with the first degree murder conviction. Defendant was sentenced to an effective sentence of life in prison plus twenty years. After the denial of a motion for new trial, Defendant appeals. On appeal, Defendant challenges the sufficiency of the evidence and the trial court’s refusal to grant a mistrial. After review, we affirm the judgments of the trial court but remand the matter to the trial court for amendment of the judgment forms to reflect the sentence as announced by the trial court at the sentencing hearing.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 09/19/22
April Hawthorne v. Morgan & Morgan Nashville, PLLC, ET AL.
W2021-01011-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Arnold B. Goldin
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Jim Kyle

This is an appeal following the trial court’s dismissal of a legal malpractice complaint predicated upon actions allegedly taken by the Defendants in connection with a prior class action proceeding. In light of its dismissal of the Plaintiff’s complaint, the trial court ruled that a “derivative” third-party complaint asserted by the Defendants should also be dismissed. Whereas the Plaintiff challenges the dismissal of her complaint, the Defendants submit that, if the order dismissing the Plaintiff’s complaint is reversed, the order dismissing their third-party complaint should also be reversed. For the reasons stated herein, we reverse, in part, the dismissal of the Plaintiff’s claims, reverse the dismissal of the third-party complaint, and remand for further proceedings.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 09/19/22
In Re Scarlett F.
W2021-01292-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge Andy D. Bennett
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor James F. Butler

A mother appeals the trial court’s decision to terminate her parental rights based on the grounds of (1) substantial noncompliance with the permanency plans, (2) persistence of conditions, (3) severe child abuse, and (4) failure to manifest an ability and willingness to personally assume custody or financial responsibility of the child. She further challenges the trial court’s finding by clear and convincing evidence that termination of her parental rights was in the best interest of the child. We vacate the substantial noncompliance ground and reverse the persistence of conditions and failure to manifest an ability and willingness to assume custody or financial responsibility grounds. Concluding that the record does not contain clear and convincing proof that termination is in the best interest of the child, we reverse the trial court’s order terminating the mother’s parental rights.

Madison County Court of Appeals 09/16/22
Quinton A. Cage v. State of Tennessee
M2022-01155-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Per Curiam
Trial Court Judge: Commissioner James A. Haltom

An inmate appeals the Claims Commission’s dismissal of his claim. Because the inmate did not file his notice of appeal within the time permitted by Rule 4 of the Tennessee Rules of Appellate Procedure, we dismiss the appeal.

Court of Appeals 09/16/22
Ashley J. Loveday v. Aaron KK.H. Colehamer
E2022-00361-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Michael Swiney
Trial Court Judge:

Because the order appealed from does not constitute a final appealable judgment, this Court lacks jurisdiction to consider this appeal.

Knox County Court of Appeals 09/16/22
State of Tennessee v. Ryan Benito Calderon Sotelo
M2021-01269-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert L. Holloway, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Stella L. Hargrove

Defendant, Ryan Benito Calderon Sotelo, was convicted after a jury trial of the sale of twenty-six grams or more of cocaine and subsequently sentenced to twelve years in confinement. On appeal, Defendant argues that the evidence was insufficient to support his conviction and that his sentence is excessive. After a thorough review of the record, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Maury County Court of Criminal Appeals 09/16/22