Appellate Court Opinions

Format: 12/09/2021
Format: 12/09/2021
Bert Newby v. State of Tennessee
W2020-00991-CCA-R3-ECN

Petitioner, Bert Newby, appeals the summary dismissal of his petition for writ of error coram nobis. Petitioner contends that the coram nobis court improperly determined that his petition was time-barred and that he presented newly discovered evidence of a witness’s recanted testimony, which may have resulted in a different judgment had it been presented at trial. Following a thorough review, we affirm the judgment of the coram nobis court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 10/13/21
Ethan Alexander Self v. State of Tennessee
E2020-01420-CCA-R3-PC

Petitioner, Ethan Alexander Self, appeals the denial of his petition for post-conviction relief from his first-degree premeditated murder conviction, arguing that the post-conviction court erred in finding that he received effective assistance of counsel. Following our review of the entire record and the parties’ briefs, we affirm the judgment of the postconviction court.

Hawkins County Court of Criminal Appeals 10/13/21
State of Tennessee v. Juan Lasean Perry
M2020-01169-CCA-R3-CD

The Defendant, Juan LaSean Perry, appeals the trial court’s summary denial of his motion to correct an illegal sentence pursuant to Tennessee Rule of Criminal Procedure 36.1 in which he challenged his twenty-five-year sentence resulting from his second degree murder conviction in 2005. After review, we affirm the trial court’s judgment.

Maury County Court of Criminal Appeals 10/13/21
Thomas A. Smythe v. Fourth Avenue Church Of Christ, Inc.
M2020-01190-COA-R3-CV

This appeal involves a contract issue concerning a purported addendum to a land purchase and sale agreement. The trial court granted the seller’s motion for summary judgment holding that there was no mutual assent on at least one material term: whether the modification would include a new date-certain deadline for the diligence period or be openended. The buyer appeals. We affirm.

Williamson County Court of Appeals 10/13/21
Kacy Collums Davis v. Richard E. Davis, Jr.
W2019-02245-COA-R3-CV

In this divorce case, Richard E. Davis, Jr. (“Husband”) challenges the trial court’s division of the marital estate, the award of spousal support and attorney’s fees to Kacy Collums Davis (“Wife”), and the trial court’s designation of Wife as primary residential parent. Wife asserts that the trial court erred in its division of the marital estate, in declining to award her 100% of her attorney’s fees, in denying her motion to disqualify the guardian ad litem, in awarding the parties equal parenting time, and in calculating Husband’s income for child support purposes. We modify the division of the marital estate (1) to correct a miscalculation, agreed by the parties to have been a clerical error in the trial court’s order, counting Wife’s retirement account twice; and (2) to reflect that Wife shall be responsible for the debt for her first attorney’s fees, which is secured by a lien on the marital residence. We affirm the trial court’s judgment in all other respects.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 10/13/21
Matthew Keith Hubbard v. Claiborne County Board of Education Et Al.
E2020-00517-COA-Rr3-CV

A tenured teacher appealed his dismissal for unprofessional conduct and insubordination. He contended that the decision of the Board of Education lacked sufficient evidentiary support. The teacher also contended that the decision was arbitrary and capricious and in violation of his constitutional and statutory rights. The trial court affirmed the Board’s decision. Upon review, we conclude that the teacher received pre-termination notice of the charges and evidence against him. And the Board complied with the procedural framework in the Tenure Act. See Tenn. Code Ann. § 49-5-512 (2020). The evidence does not preponderate against the trial court’s findings that the teacher was guilty of unprofessional conduct and insubordination. We further conclude that the teacher failed to establish that the Board’s decision was arbitrary or in violation of statutory or constitutional rights. So we affirm.

Claiborne County Court of Appeals 10/13/21
State of Tennessee v. Kenneth Barnett
E2020-01542-CCA-R3-CD

The Knox County Grand Jury indicted Defendant, Kenneth Barnett, for ten counts of aggravated burglary with intent to commit theft, ten alternative counts of aggravated burglary while committing theft, ten counts of theft, and two counts of unlawful possession of a weapon by a convicted felon. Prior to trial, the trial court dismissed the ten alternative counts of aggravated burglary while committing theft. Following trial, the jury convicted Defendant of six counts of aggravated burglary, six counts of theft, and both counts of unlawful possession of a weapon by a convicted felon, for which the trial court imposed a total effective sentence of thirty-five years. On appeal, Defendant argues that the evidence was insufficient to support his convictions for unlawful possession of a weapon by a convicted felon. Following a thorough review of the record and applicable law, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 10/13/21
William Casey v. State of Tennessee
E2020-00701-CCA-R3-PC

The Petitioner, William Casey, appeals the post-conviction court’s denial of his petition for post-conviction relief in which he challenged his convictions for first degree criminal sexual conduct and two counts of aggravated rape for offenses that occurred in 1979 and 1980. On appeal, the Petitioner asserts that he received ineffective assistance of counsel at trial and on direct appeal, that the
post-conviction court erred in failing to rule upon his motion in limine seeking to exclude the State from presenting any evidence protected by attorney-client privilege, and that the Petitioner is entitled to relief due to cumulative error. We affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Sullivan County Court of Criminal Appeals 10/13/21
Hal Eugene Hill v. Liesa Francine Hill
E2019-02226-COA-R3-CV

In this post-divorce action, the trial court awarded a judgment in the amount of $13,835.17 to the father, representing the mother’s retroactive child support obligation. When calculating the mother’s child support arrearage, the trial court declined to include the father’s inheritance as income for child support calculation purposes because the father had used the majority of his inherited funds to pay private school tuition for the parties’ two children. The court further awarded to the father attorney’s fees and costs in the amount of $18,394.00 related to a previous child custody modification action. The mother has appealed. Discerning reversible error, we vacate the trial court’s child support award and remand the child support issue to the trial court for further proceedings to determine whether a modification was warranted and if so, the appropriate amount of child support to be awarded pursuant to the Child Support Guidelines (“the Guidelines”). We also vacate the trial court’s determination concerning civil contempt and remand that issue to the trial court as well.

Bradley County Court of Appeals 10/12/21
State of Tennessee v. Nicholas Maurice White
E2020-01546-CCA-R3-CD

A Bradley County jury convicted the defendant, Nicholas Maurice White, of aggravated robbery and aggravated assault, and the trial court imposed an effective sentence of ten years’ incarceration. On appeal, the defendant challenges the sufficiency of the evidence supporting his convictions. Upon our review of the record and the applicable law, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Bradley County Court of Criminal Appeals 10/12/21
Gary W. Garrett v. Tony Parker
M2020-01742-COA-R3-CV

This is the second action in which the petitioner, an inmate in the custody of the Tennessee Department of Corrections (“TDOC”), seeks good sentence credits and prisoner performance credits. The trial court dismissed the present action, filed in 2019, in accordance with Rule 12.02(6) of the Tennessee Rules of Civil Procedure, determining that res judicata barred the suit. The decision was based on the following findings: the petitioner did not assert that the Davidson County Chancery Court lacked jurisdiction to hear the case in the prior action, filed in 2005, “the same parties were involved in both . . . suit[s],” both cases “arose out of the same transaction or series of connected transactions” between the same parties, and “the [prior] suit resulted in a final judgment on the merits . . . .” We affirm. 

Davidson County Court of Appeals 10/12/21
Kodi Gail Knight v. The City of Fairview, Williamson County, Tennessee
M2020-01433-COA-R3-CV

This appeal concerns a police officer’s termination. Kodi Gail Knight (“Knight”) was a police officer for the City of Fairview, Tennessee (“Fairview”). After an August 2019 incident in which Knight struck a handcuffed woman (“the Arrestee”) in the face, Fairview police chief Zack Humphreys (“Chief Humphreys”) submitted a request to City Manager Scott Collins (“the City Manager”) that Knight be terminated. The City Manager sent Knight a termination letter. Knight requested, and was granted, a pre-dismissal hearing before the City Manager. Following this hearing, the City Manager affirmed the decision to terminate Knight. Knight filed a petition for writ of certiorari in the Chancery Court for Williamson County (“the Trial Court”). The Trial Court affirmed Fairview’s termination of Knight. Knight appeals, arguing among other things that his procedural due process rights were violated because the City Manager both drafted his termination letter and presided over his pre-dismissal hearing. We find that Knight was an at-will employee who lacked a property interest entitling him to procedural due process protection. We also find that the City Manager’s decision was supported by substantial and material evidence and was neither arbitrary nor capricious. We affirm the judgment of the Trial Court.

Williamson County Court of Appeals 10/12/21
State of Tennessee v. Joseph Griggs
W2020-01686-CCA-R3-CD

A Hardeman County jury convicted the Defendant, Joseph Griggs, of aggravated rape, and the trial court sentenced him to twenty years in the Tennessee Department of Correction. On appeal, the Defendant asserts that the evidence is insufficient to support his conviction and that the trial court erred when it sentenced him. After a thorough review of the record and the applicable law, we affirm the trial court’s judgment.

Hardeman County Court of Criminal Appeals 10/12/21
John William Owens v. Meredith Elizabeth Owens
E2021-00608-COA-R3-CV

Issues regarding an award of attorney fees remain pending, so the order appealed from does not constitute a final appealable judgment. As such, this Court lacks jurisdiction to consider this appeal.

Meigs County Court of Appeals 10/11/21
State of Tennessee v. Erik Sean Potts
M2020-01489-CCA-R3-CD

The Defendant-Appellant, Erik Sean Potts, entered a guilty plea to driving under the influence (“DUI”) by impairment (second offense) in exchange for dismissal of four other charges stemming from his DUI offense and a sentence of eleven months and twenty-nine days to be served on supervised probation after service of forty-five days of confinement.  The Defendant reserved a certified question of law challenging the denial of his motion to suppress, which was based upon an unconstitutional search and seizure.  After thorough review, we conclude that the certified question does not meet the requirements of Rule 37(b)(2)(A) of the Tennessee Rules of Criminal Procedure and State v. Preston, 759 S.W.2d 647 (Tenn. 1988), and, as a result, this court is without jurisdiction to consider the appeal.  Accordingly, the appeal is dismissed.   

Maury County Court of Criminal Appeals 10/11/21
Dominick Ratliff v. State of Tennessee
E2020-01664-CCA-R3-PC

In Case No. 113496, Dominick Ratliff, Petitioner, pled guilty to possession with intent to deliver more than 0.5 grams of methamphetamine in a drug-free zone and received a sentence of fifteen years’ incarceration with a 100 percent release eligibility. In Case No. 112791,1 Petitioner pled guilty to possession with intent to deliver more than 0.5 grams of methamphetamine and simple possession of a Schedule IV controlled substance. Pursuant to the plea agreement, Petitioner received concurrent sentences of eight years’ incarceration with a thirty percent release eligibility and eleven months and twenty-nine days’ incarceration, respectively. The trial court ran the sentences in both cases concurrently, for an effective fifteen-year sentence with a 100 percent release eligibility. Petitioner filed a timely post-conviction petition, alleging in part that his plea was unknowing and involuntary. The post-conviction court denied relief, and Petitioner now appeals. Following a thorough review of the record and law, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 10/11/21
State of Tennessee v. Lorenzo ONeal Barnhill
M2021-00089-CCA-R3-CD

Defendant, Lorenzo Barnhill, claims the trial court erred by finding that he was a dangerous offender and ordering his four-year sentence in Case No. 2019-A-106 to be served consecutively to his effective seven-year sentence in Case No. 2019-A-334. After a review of the record and applicable law, we determine that the trial court provided reasons on the record establishing by a preponderance of the evidence that Defendant was an offender whose “record of criminal activity is extensive.” Tenn. Code Ann. § 40-35-115(b)(2). Because the trial court found one of the seven criteria listed in Tennessee Code Annotated section 40-35-115(b), the trial court did not abuse its discretion in aligning the sentences consecutively. We affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 10/11/21
Dewey Burton, Jr. v. State of Tennessee
E2020-01699-CCA-R3-PC

The petitioner, Dewey Burton, Jr., appeals the denial of his petition for post-conviction relief, which petition challenged his Knox County Criminal Court Jury conviction of aggravated child neglect, alleging that he was deprived of the effective assistance of counsel. Discerning no error, we affirm the denial of post-conviction relief.

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 10/08/21
In Re Amora S.
E2021-00338-COA-R3-PT

This appeal involves the termination of a father’s parental rights. The child was placed into the custody of the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services (“DCS”) in May 2019. DCS subsequently filed a petition to terminate the father’s parental rights in the Hamblen County Juvenile Court (“Juvenile Court”). Following trial, the Juvenile Court entered an order terminating the father’s parental rights to the child, upon its finding by clear and convincing evidence that the father had failed to manifest an ability and willingness to parent the child, that returning the child to the father’s custody would pose a risk of substantial harm to the child’s psychological welfare, and that termination of the father’s parental rights was in the child’s best interest. Discerning no reversible error, we affirm.

Hamblen County Court of Appeals 10/08/21
Unjolee Moore v. State of Tennessee
E2019-01076-CCA-R3-PC

The Petitioner, Unjolee Moore, filed a petition for post-conviction relief in the Hamilton County Criminal Court, claiming that he received the ineffective assistance of counsel. After an evidentiary hearing, the post-conviction court filed an order denying relief, and the Petitioner filed a “motion to reconsider.” The post-conviction court granted the motion, vacated its order denying relief, and reopened the proof. Subsequently, the post-conviction court filed a second order denying relief. On appeal, the Petitioner maintains that he received the ineffective assistance of counsel. The State argues that this appeal should be dismissed because the Petitioner’s notice of appeal was untimely. The State also argues that the timely filing requirement should not be waived and that even if this court waives timely filing, this court should disregard the evidence presented at the second evidentiary hearing because it is not part of the record. Based upon the oral arguments, the record, and the parties’ briefs, we conclude that the Petitioner’s notice of appeal was not untimely and that the evidence from the second evidentiary hearing is properly before us. However, we also conclude that the
post-conviction court correctly denied the petition for post-conviction relief. Accordingly, the judgment of the post-conviction court is affirmed.

Hamilton County Court of Criminal Appeals 10/08/21
Emergency Medical Care Facilities, P.C. v. Division Of Tenncare, Et Al.
M2020-01358-COA-R3-CV

This appeal involves a reimbursement limitation that TennCare imposed on “non-emergent” medical services provided by emergency department physicians. TennCare informed its managed care organizations of the reimbursement limitation via email without engaging in rule-making procedures outlined in the Uniform Administrative Procedures Act (“UAPA”). The trial court concluded the reimbursement limitation was a “rule” subject to the rule-making requirements of the UAPA and invalidated the reimbursement limitation. We hold that the reimbursement limitation falls within the internal management exception of the 2009 version of the UAPA and was therefore not subject to the UAPA’s rule-making requirements. The ruling of the trial court is reversed.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 10/07/21
Tennesseans For Sensible Election Laws v. Herbert H. Slatery, III Et Al.
M2020-01292-COA-R3-CV

This is an action for declaratory judgment and injunctive relief that challenges the constitutionality of Tenn. Code Ann. § 2-19-142, which criminalizes the publication of false statements opposing a political candidate. The complaint was filed by a political campaign committee that engages in direct advocacy for and against political candidates. The defendants, the Tennessee Attorney General and the District Attorney General for the 20th Judicial District of Tennessee, contended the action should be dismissed, inter alia, for lack of subject matter jurisdiction because the campaign committee lacked standing to challenge the constitutionality of the statute. The trial court found that the committee had standing because it faced a credible threat of prosecution and, acting upon the campaign committee’s motion for summary judgment, the trial court held that Tenn. Code Ann. § 2-19-142 contravenes the First Amendment to the United States Constitution and article I, section 19 of the Tennessee Constitution. The court also awarded the campaign committee its attorney’s fees pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1988(c) as the prevailing party. We have determined the campaign committee failed to establish that it had standing to challenge the constitutionality of Tenn. Code Ann. § 2-19-142; therefore, we hold that the trial court lacked subject-matter jurisdiction to rule on the matter. For these reasons, we vacate the judgment of the trial court, including the award of attorney’s fees to the campaign committee, and remand with instructions to dismiss.  

Davidson County Court of Appeals 10/07/21
Robert C. Pelt, Et Al. v. Richard E. Benjamin Et Al.
M2020-01068-COA-R3-CV

This case concerns an alleged contract for the sale of real property. Although a prior written offer regarding the property expired pursuant to its stated terms when it was not timely accepted, the trial court held that there was an oral agreement to extend the expiration date for acceptance and concluded that the Statute of Frauds did not serve as an impediment to enforcement of the parties’ alleged contract when the plaintiffs, the appellees herein, filed suit to enforce it. The trial court also concluded that no damages should be awarded under former Tennessee Code Annotated section 66-21-108 to the defendants, who had asserted a slander of title claim in the trial court. The defendants now appeal, challenging both the trial court’s contract law analysis and its decision to not award them statutory damages. Although we reverse the trial court’s judgment with respect to the plaintiffs’ breach of contract claim, we affirm its refusal to award the defendants statutory damages for the reasons stated herein.

Wilson County Court of Appeals 10/07/21
Millard Ellis Spurgeon v. State of Tennessee
E2020-01328-CCA-R3-PC

Petitioner, Millard Ellis Spurgeon, appeals the denial of post-conviction relief from his 2015 Sevier County convictions for burglary, theft of property valued at $1,000 or more, vandalism of property valued at $1,000 or more, and possession of burglary tools, for which he received an effective sixteen-year sentence. Petitioner argues that he was denied the effective assistance of counsel at trial. After a thorough review of the record and applicable law, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Sevier County Court of Criminal Appeals 10/06/21
In Re Elijah H.
M2020-01548-COA-R3-PT

This termination of parental rights case focuses on Elijah H. (“the Child”), the minor child of Amanda H. (“Mother”) and Kevin W. (“Father”).  In March 2019, the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services (“DCS”) filed a petition to terminate the parental rights of Mother and Father in the Wilson County Juvenile Court (“trial court”).  The Child had previously been removed from Mother’s custody after he was born exposed to drugs.  Father was incarcerated prior to the Child’s birth and has remained so continuously since that time, awaiting trial for pending criminal charges, including first degree murder.  During a bench trial, Mother voluntarily surrendered her parental rights to the Child. At the conclusion of the bench trial, the trial court terminated Father’s parental rights to the Child, finding by clear and convincing evidence that Father had abandoned the Child by exhibiting wanton disregard for the Child’s welfare prior to Father’s incarceration and that Father had failed to manifest an ability and willingness to assume legal and physical custody of or financial responsibility for the Child.  The trial court further found by clear and convincing evidence that it was in the Child’s best interest to terminate Father’s parental rights.  Father has appealed.   Having determined that DCS presented insufficient evidence that Father knew of the Child’s existence at the time of his criminal behavior, we reverse the trial court’s finding that Father abandoned the Child by exhibiting wanton disregard for the Child’s welfare.  We affirm the trial court’s judgment in all other respects, including the termination of Father’s parental rights.

Wilson County Court of Appeals 10/06/21