Court Opinions

Format: 08/18/2022
Format: 08/18/2022
Lee Richard Slotnik v. Shani Marie Slotnik
M2022-00645-COA-T10B-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge W. Neal McBrayer
Trial Court Judge: Judge James G. Martin, III

In this accelerated interlocutory appeal, a mother seeks review of the denial of her motion to recuse the trial judge.  She contends that statements the trial judge made at a hearing present a reasonable basis for questioning the judge’s impartiality or could only stem from an extrajudicial source.  We conclude that they do not.  So we affirm. 

Williamson County Court of Appeals 06/07/22
Board of Professional Responsibility of the Supreme Court of Tennessee v. Candes Vonniest Prewitt
M2021-01141-SC-R3-BP
Authoring Judge: Justice Sharon G. Lee
Trial Court Judge: Senior Judge Don R. Ash

This is an appeal of a trial court’s judgment affirming a decision of a hearing panel of the Board of Professional Responsibility. The hearing panel found that an attorney had violated multiple Rules of Professional Conduct and imposed a thirty-day suspension from the practice of law with conditions on reinstatement. After careful review, we affirm the decision of the hearing panel and the judgment of the trial court.

Davidson County Supreme Court 06/06/22
State Of Tennessee v. Jennifer Sadie Thompson
M2021-00420-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Norma McGee Ogle
Trial Court Judge: Judge J. Curtis Smith

The Appellant, Jennifer Sadie Thompson, filed a pro se motion for correction of sentence pursuant to Rule 36.1, which was denied by the trial court.  On appeal, the Appellant contends that the trial court erred by denying her motion, arguing that the Tennessee Department of Correction failed to apply sentencing credits to which she was entitled.  Upon review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.  

Franklin County Court of Criminal Appeals 06/06/22
State of Tennessee v. Inman D. Turner
M2020-01729-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Norma McGee Ogle
Trial Court Judge: Judge David M. Bragg

In 2019, the Appellee, Inman D. Turner, was charged in the Rutherford County Circuit Court with two counts of criminal sexual conduct and four counts of aggravated rape, Class X felonies, for offenses that allegedly occurred from 1978 to 1982.  The Appellee filed a motion to dismiss the indictment for prosecutorial delay.  The trial court held an evidentiary hearing and granted the motion, and the State appeals.  Based upon the oral arguments, the record, and the parties’ briefs, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Rutherford County Court of Criminal Appeals 06/06/22
Gary A. Montgomery v. Lesley B. Montgomery
M2022-00663-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Per Curiam
Trial Court Judge: Judge Michael Wayne Collins
This is an appeal from a final order dismissing a post-divorce petition on the grounds of res judicata. Because the appellant did not file his notice of appeal within thirty days after entry of the final order as required by Rule 4(a) of the Tennessee Rules of Appellate Procedure, we dismiss the appeal.
 
Wilson County Court of Appeals 06/06/22
State of Tennessee v. Timothy Hinson
W2021-00257-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Timothy L. Easter
Trial Court Judge: Judge Donald H. Allen

A Madison County jury convicted Defendant, Timothy Hinson, for one count of continuous sexual abuse of a child (“CSAC”), five counts of rape, five counts of aggravated statutory rape, five counts of statutory rape by an authority figure, three counts of sexual battery by an authority figure, and one count of attempted sexual battery by an authority figure. On appeal, Defendant argues that (1) the trial court violated Tennessee Code Annotated section 39-13-518(f) when it failed to dismiss the predicate offenses after merging them into CSAC, (2) the trial court imposed sentences for the predicate offenses in contravention of Tennessee Code Annotated section 39-13-518(f), (3) his convictions in Counts 3 and 11 violate the protections against double jeopardy, and (4) the trial court abused its discretion in enhancing Defendant’s sentence for the CSAC conviction. After review and pursuant to the plain language of Tennessee Code Annotated section 39-13-518(f), we remand the case for resentencing on Counts 4, 8, 12, 15, and 18, and entry of corrected judgment forms in Counts 2, 3, 5, 7, 10, 11, 13, 14, 16, 17, 19, and 20. The judgments of the trial court are otherwise affirmed.

Madison County Court of Criminal Appeals 06/03/22
John Doe 1, et al. v. Woodland Presbyterian, et al.
W2021-00353-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Chief Judge D. Michael Swiney
Trial Court Judge: Judge Rhynette N. Hurd

This appeal arises from a lawsuit alleging that a number of Presbyterian church entities were negligent regarding the sexual abuse of minors by a Presbyterian clergyman. John Doe 1, John Doe 2, and John Doe 3 (“Plaintiffs”) , members and/or attendees of Woodland Presbyterian Church (“Woodland”) in the 1990s, sued former pastor James B. Stanford (“Stanford”) and a host of Presbyterian institutional defendants for negligence in the Circuit Court for Shelby County (“the Trial Court”). The institutional defendants filed motions to dismiss, which were granted by the Trial Court. Plaintiffs appeal arguing, among other things, that the statute of limitations was tolled due to fraudulent concealment. They argue further that the Trial Court erred in dismissing their claim of negligent infliction of emotional distress stemming from certain of the institutional defendants allegedly releasing Plaintiffs’ names to the media in 2019. We affirm the Trial Court’s dismissal of Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), A Corporation and Evangelical Presbyterian Church for lack of personal jurisdiction. However, we hold further, inter alia, that in view of the Tennessee Supreme Court’s holding in Redwing v. Catholic Bishop for the Diocese of Memphis, 363 S.W.3d 436 (Tenn. 2012), the Trial Court erred in dismissing Plaintiffs’ complaint at the motion to dismiss stage based upon the statute of limitations when Plaintiffs alleged that efforts were made by certain of the institutional defendants to hide the sexual abuse and a “whitewash” ensued. As Plaintiffs successfully alleged fraudulent concealment, we reverse the Trial Court with respect to the statute of limitations issue. We also reverse the Trial Court’s dismissal of Plaintiffs’ negligent infliction of emotional distress claim against Woodland and Presbytery of the Central South, Inc. We, therefore, affirm in part and reverse in part the judgment of the Trial Court, and remand for further proceedings consistent with this Opinion.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 06/03/22
Trena R. Jefferson, et al. v. Patricia A. Williams-Mapp
W2021-01058-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge J. Steven Stafford
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Gadson W. Perry

Appellant’s brief in this case fails to substantially comply with Rule 27 of the Tennessee Rules of Appellate Procedure. Therefore, we dismiss this appeal.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 06/03/22
State of Tennessee v. Antonio Maurice Jackson
M2020-01098-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge John Everett Williams
Trial Court Judge: Judge Mark J. Fishburn

The Defendant, Antonio Maurice Jackson, was convicted of three counts of second degree murder and two counts of aggravated assault after a bench trial. The trial court merged the homicide offenses and imposed an aggregate sentence of twenty-five years in prison. On appeal, the Defendant challenges the trial court’s decision to admit the preliminary hearing testimony of a witness; the trial court’s various evidentiary decisions; the trial court’s rulings on self-defense; the trial court’s refusal to require the State to make an election on various charges; the trial court’s decision to convict the Defendant of second degree murder in Count 3 after announcing a verdict of acquittal from the bench and entering it in the minutes; and the sentencing determination. After a thorough review of the record, we conclude that the principles of double jeopardy prohibited the trial court from revisiting its acquittal, and we accordingly reverse the Defendant’s conviction for second degree murder in Count 3. The Defendant’s remaining convictions and sentences are affirmed.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 06/03/22
State of Tennessee v. Roy Donald Coons, Jr.
M2021-00202-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge J. Ross Dyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Monte Watkins

A Davidson County jury convicted the defendant, Roy Donald Coons, Jr., of two counts of second-degree murder, one count of
first-degree felony murder, one count of attempted rape of a child, and one count of aggravated criminal trespass, for which he received an effective sentence of life imprisonment plus twenty-five years.  On appeal, the defendant argues the trial court erred in allowing the admission of the victim’s text messages, in permitting the State to introduce an excessive number of photographs of the victim, and in imposing consecutive sentences.  The defendant also contends the evidence presented at trial was insufficient to support his convictions.  After reviewing the record and considering the applicable law, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.  However, we remand the case for corrected judgment forms in counts one and three.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 06/03/22
Gary Ray Welden v. State of Tennessee
E2021-00772-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert H. Montgomery, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge E. Shayne Sexton

The Petitioner, Gary Ray Welden, appeals from the Campbell County Criminal Court’s denial of his petition for post-conviction relief from his conviction for solicitation of a minor to engage in aggravated statutory rape and his one-year sentence. On appeal, the Petitioner contends that the post-conviction court erred by denying relief on his ineffective assistance of counsel claims. We affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Campbell County Court of Criminal Appeals 06/03/22
State of Tennessee v. Kristopher Michael Martin
M2020-01384-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Kelly Thomas, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Jill Bartee Ayers

The Defendant, Kristopher Michael Martin, was convicted by a jury of second-degree murder, for which he received a sentence of twenty years. See Tenn. Code Ann. § 39-13-210. On appeal, the Defendant argues that the trial erred in applying enhancement factors and that the trial court erred in failing to consider mitigating factors.  See Tenn. Code Ann. §§ 40-35-113, -13-114.  Following our review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Montgomery County Court of Criminal Appeals 06/03/22
In Re Morgan R.
E2021-01206-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge Arnold B. Goldin
Trial Court Judge: Judge Jerri Bryant

This is an appeal by Mother from the trial court’s termination of her parental rights on the grounds of abandonment. Mother contends that her actions were not willful such as to warrant termination, while also arguing that termination is not in the best interest of the child. For the reasons discussed herein, we affirm the trial court’s termination.

Monroe County Court of Appeals 06/02/22
Jeffrey Polhamus v. State of Tennessee
E2021-01253-COA-R9-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Frank G. Clement, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor E.G. Moody

This case arises from a single-vehicle motorcycle accident at the intersection of State Route 1 and State Route 36 within the city limits of Kingsport, Tennessee. The cyclist contends the accident was caused by the failure of the State of Tennessee and the City of Kingsport to properly maintain the state highways; specifically, he alleges that their failure to repair a pothole caused the accident. The plaintiff filed a claim against the State with the Tennessee Division of Claims Administration, and shortly thereafter he commenced this action against the City in the Sullivan County Circuit Court. The claim against the State was later transferred and consolidated with the action against the City. Both the State and the City claimed immunity and moved for summary judgment. The State asserted that it had immunity because the City contractually agreed to maintain the highways where the accident occurred. The City asserted that it had immunity because the State owned the highways where the accident occurred. The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of the City upon the finding the City had immunity because it did not “own” the state highways; however, it denied the State’s motion because “[t]o hold that both the State and the City [were] immune from suit would be against public policy.”

Sullivan County Court of Appeals 06/02/22
Christie Lee (Upchurch) Vanwinkle et al. v. Robert Martin Thompson
M2020-01291-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Western Section Presiding Judge J. Steven Stafford
Trial Court Judge: Judge Amy V. Hollars

A wife and husband obtained a “Final Decree of Divorce.” The wife then remarried. Her first husband claimed their divorce was not final, and thus filed a declaratory judgment action claiming that her second marriage was bigamous. The declaratory judgment action was ultimately dismissed. The wife and her new husband filed a defamation action against the first husband, claiming that he had falsely accused them of bigamy. The trial court dismissed the defamation action. Because the first husband’s allegedly defamatory statements are entitled to the absolute litigation privilege, we affirm.

Putnam County Court of Appeals 06/02/22
State of Tennessee v. Douglas E. Linville
W2019-02180-SC-R11-CD
Authoring Judge: Justice Jeffrey S. Bivins
Trial Court Judge: Judge Charles C. McGinley

A jury convicted Douglas E. Linville of multiple drug offenses that occurred in a drug-free zone, in this case within 1,000 feet of a city park.  Because the offenses occurred in a drug-free zone, the trial court imposed sentences that required full service of at least the minimum term within the appropriate sentencing range prior to release.  See Tenn. Code Ann. § 39-17-432(c) (2014) (amended 2020 & 2022).  On appeal, the Court of Criminal Appeals rejected challenges to the convictions.  However, consistent with Mr. Linville’s brief, the intermediate appellate court noted that the judgment for one of the convictions erroneously referred to the controlled substance at issue—Xanax or Alprazolam—as Schedule III when it was actually Schedule IV.  In so noting, the court also concluded sua sponte that the felony class reflected on the judgment for that conviction was incorrect because Tennessee law required a one-class enhancement for an offense that occurred in a drug-free zone.  See Tenn. Code Ann. § 39-17-432(b)(1) (2014).  We accepted Mr. Linville’s appeal.  Based on our review of the relevant statutory provisions, we conclude that because the drug-free zone in this case related to a public park, the offenses were not subject to a one-class enhancement.  We, however, further conclude that the offenses were subject to the requirement to serve in full at least the minimum sentence for the appropriate range prior to release.  Accordingly, we reverse the decision of the Court of Criminal Appeals in part, affirm the judgments of the trial court, and remand this matter to the trial court for correction of a clerical error in one judgment.

Hardin County Supreme Court 06/01/22
In Re: Conservatorship Of Abigail Olmore
E2022-00588-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Per Curiam
Trial Court Judge: Judge Pamela A. Fleenor

Because the notice of appeal was not timely filed, this Court lacks jurisdiction to consider this appeal.

Hamilton County Court of Appeals 06/01/22
Gregory Arnez Goff v. State of Tennessee
W2021-00929-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge James Curwood Witt, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Roy B. Morgan

The petitioner, Gregory Arnez Goff, appeals the denial of his petition for post-conviction relief, which petition challenged his convictions of aggravated robbery and aggravated assault, alleging that he was deprived of the effective assistance of counsel. Discerning no error, we affirm the denial of post-conviction relief.

Madison County Court of Criminal Appeals 06/01/22
Christina Jane Compher v. Dana Janelle Whitefield
M2021-00474-COA-R3-JV
Authoring Judge: Judge Carma Dennis McGee
Trial Court Judge: Judge Donna Scott Davenport
This appeal is a parentage action involving a same-sex domestic partnership, in which the petitioner filed a petition seeking to be recognized as a legal parent of a child born by artificial insemination after the parties made the mutual decision to have the child. The juvenile court granted the respondent’s motion to dismiss finding that the petitioner lacked standing. The petitioner appeals. We affirm.
 
Rutherford County Court of Appeals 06/01/22
George John Byrd v. State of Tennessee
E2021-00562-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Norma McGee Ogle
Trial Court Judge: Judge Kyle A. Hixson

The Petitioner, George John Byrd, filed a petition for post-conviction relief from his three aggravated rape convictions, his aggravated assault conviction, and the resulting effective sentence of twenty-five years. The Petitioner alleged that his trial counsel was ineffective by “opening the door” to evidence that was detrimental to the Petitioner, inadequately preparing for trial, failing to interview and call certain defense witnesses, and failing to prepare the Petitioner to testify at trial. The post-conviction court denied the petition, and the Petitioner appeals this ruling. Upon review, we affirm the judgment of the postconviction court.

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 06/01/22
Carolyn M. Stark ET AL. v. William S. McLean ET AL.
W2020-00086-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Arnold B. Goldin
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Tony Childress

This appeal involves the consideration of several issues contested among family members, including those pertaining to the fiduciary duties owed by a son who served as a trustee of trusts created by his parents. The trial court granted significant monetary relief to the son’s sisters following a bench trial, including for conversion and breach of fiduciary duty, but it rejected other aspects of the sisters’ requested relief. The son presently maintains that he should be absolved of liability for his breach of fiduciary duties, whereas his sisters complain that the trial court did not award them sufficient relief. For the reasons stated herein, we affirm in part, reverse in part, vacate in part, and remand for further proceedings consistent with this Opinion.

Dyer County Court of Appeals 06/01/22
Pamela Diane Stark v. Joe Edward Stark
W2020-01692-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Kenny Armstrong
Trial Court Judge: Judge Robert Samual Weiss

This appeal arises from a cornplaint for divorce filed in 2018. The multi-faceted litigation of this matter included three interspousal tort claims tried together with the divorce action, the adjudication of a motion for an order of protection and a petition for a restraining order, two contempt proceedings, two motions to recuse, interlocutory appeals to this Court, the denial of permission to appeal by the Tennessee Supreme Court, and the denial of certiorari by the United States Supreme Court. Proceedings in the trial court also precipitated two federal court actions. Following a six-day trial in 2020 and a stay of proceedings pending the Supreme Court's order on Wife's application for a writ of certiorari, the trial court entered final judgment in the matter in November 2021. Wife appeals the trial court's classification, valuation, and division of property. Wife also appeals the trial court's denial of her second motion to recuse. Discerning no evidence of bias, we affirm the trial court's denial of Wife's second motion to recuse. The trial court's classification, valuation, and division of property is reversed in part, and affirmed in part as modified.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 05/31/22
State of Tennessee v. Mike Settle
W2021-00328-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Camille R. McMullen
Trial Court Judge: Judge Kyle C. Atkins

The pro se Pctitioner, Mike Settle, appeals the dismissal of his Tennessee Rule of Criminal Procedure 36.1 claim. Upon our review, we affirm.

Madison County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/31/22
State of Tennessee v. Kenyon Demario Reynolds, Alias
E2021-00066-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge James Curwood Witt
Trial Court Judge: Judge Bob R. McGee

Aggrieved of his Knox County Criminal Court jury convictions of second degree murder, delivery and sale of a Schedule I controlled substance, and unlawful possession of a firearm, the defendant, Kenyon Demario Reynolds, appeals, arguing that the trial court erred by denying his motion to sever the charges, denying his motion to suppress evidence, providing an incorrect jury instruction, and failing to merge two firearm convictions. Because the trial court erred by failing to merge Counts 13 and 14, we remand the case for merger of those counts and entry of corrected judgment forms. We affirm the trial court’s judgments in all other respects.

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/31/22
State Of Tennessee v. Vincent Edward Crowson, Jr.
M2021-00321-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge J. Ross Dyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge David M. Bragg

Following a bench trial, the trial court found the defendant, Vincent Edward Crowson, Jr., guilty of driving under the influence (count 1), driving while his license was suspended because of a conviction for driving under the influence (count 2), possession of a weapon while under the influence of a controlled substance (count 4), being a convicted felon in possession of a firearm (count 5), driving while his license was suspended because of a conviction for driving under the influence, second offense (count 6), and driving under the influence, second offense (count 7).  The trial court imposed an effective twenty-year sentence, and the defendant appealed.  On appeal, the defendant challenges the sufficiency of the evidence supporting his convictions, the constitutionality of the felon in possession of a firearm statute, and several pre-trial rulings of the trial court.  After reviewing the record and considering the applicable law, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Rutherford County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/27/22