Tennessee Administrative Office of the Courts

Appellate Court Opinions

Format: 03/03/2015
Format: 03/03/2015
State of Tennessee v. Jeffrey Gallaher
M2014-01232-CCA-R3-CD

Defendant, Jeffrey Gallaher, was indicted by the Lewis County Grand Jury for one count of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, one count of introduction of contraband into a penal institution, and one count of possession of a schedule IV drug.  After a jury trial, Defendant was found not guilty of aggravated assault.  He was convicted of introduction of contraband into a penal institution and simple possession.   The trial court sentenced Defendant to an effective sentence of six years in incarceration as a Range II, multiple offender.  On appeal, Defendant challenges the sufficiency of the evidence for the conviction for introduction of contraband into a penal institution.  He does not challenge the conviction for simple possession.  We conclude that the evidence was sufficient to support the conviction for introduction of contraband into a penal institution.  Accordingly, the judgments of the trial court are affirmed. 

Lewis County Court of Criminal Appeals 02/24/15
Alison Fein (Young) Dahl v. Shawn Patrick Young
M2013-02854-COA-R3-CV

Mother and Father were divorced when their child was not quite two years old. Mother was named the primary residential parent. She remarried when the child was three years old and sought to relocate to Virginia when her husband was required to move there for his job. Father objected and sought to be named the primary residential parent. The evidence was undisputed that Mother’s stepson (the child’s stepbrother) committed an act of sexual abuse on the child when he was four and the stepson was ten. Counselors were retained to work with each child. Both counselors testified the situation was under control and Mother was taking proper precautions to protect the child. The trial court permitted Mother to relocate with the child, but it limited the number of days the stepbrother could spend with the child in Virginia. Mother appealed, claiming the trial court’s ruling was arbitrary. She also appealed the trial court’s ruling requiring her to pay the transportation costs of the child’s flights to Tennessee to visit Father, its credit to Father for childcare expenses on the child support worksheet, and its denial of her request for attorney’s fees. We vacate the court’s $250 childcare credit to Father because no evidence of this expense was offered at trial. We affirm the trial court’s judgment in all other respects.

Williamson County Court of Appeals 02/24/15
In Re Blaklyn M.
M2014-00503-COA-R3-JV

Father who filed petition to establish visitation with his child appeals the award of parenting time, contending that the parenting plan does not maximize his participation in the child’s life. Finding that the evidence preponderates against the parenting schedule ordered by the Court, we reverse the judgment and remand for the adoption of a plan that increases Father’s residential parenting time.

Sumner County Court of Appeals 02/24/15
Lisa Denise Church v. Shannon Wayne Brown
E2014-00942-COA-R3-CV

This appeal arises from a claim of fraud in a post-divorce context. Lisa Denise Church (“Plaintiff”) filed a complaint for fraud in the Circuit Court for Cumberland County (“the Trial Court”) against her ex-husband, Shannon Wayne Brown (“Defendant”), alleging that he had misled her during their divorce regarding the valuation of his business interest. This suit followed an earlier, unsuccessful action on the issue of fraud filed by Plaintiff under TRCP 60 in the divorce action which had yielded a final judgment after appeal. The Trial Court granted Defendant’s motion for summary judgment, finding, inter alia, that Plaintiff’s fraud claim was barred by res judicata. Plaintiff appealed to this Court. We hold that Plaintiff’s current lawsuit for fraud is a distinct cause of action, namely, common law fraud, and is not barred by res judicata. However, as the issue of fraud already had been decided in the earlier post-divorce Rule 60 proceedings, the doctrine of collateral estoppel prevents Plaintiff from re-litigating the issue of fraud. We affirm the judgment of the Trial Court as modified.

Cumberland County Court of Appeals 02/23/15
Susan Isbell v. William G. Hatchett, et al.- Corrected Opinion
W2014-00633-COA-R3-CV

This appeal involves claims arising from a settlement agreement allegedly entered by two of the parties to settle previous lawsuits. Appellant filed a complaint against Appellees alleging four causes of action: (1) tortious interference with a contractual obligation; (2) abuse of judicial process; (3) breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing; and (4) conspiracy to deny Appellant her rights under the settlement agreement. Appellees responded by filing a joint motion to dismiss. The trial court found that three of Appellant’s causes of action for tortious interference, breach of good faith, and conspiracy each required the existence of a contract and dismissed those claims based on a finding that the settlement agreement was void and unenforceable. The trial court also dismissed Appellant’s abuse of judicial process claim after finding “no evidence whatsoever that [Appellees] or their counsel of record did anything improper that would support a cause of action for abuse of process.” On appeal, we reverse the trial court’s finding that the settlement agreement was void and therefore reverse the dismissal of Appellant’s claims requiring a contract. Additionally, we hold that because the trial court did not consider any extraneous evidence in dismissing the abuse of judicial process claim, the trial court erred in applying a summary judgment standard with regard to that claim. Because we find that the complaint sufficiently alleged abuse of judicial process, we also reverse the trial court’s dismissal of that claim.

Fayette County Court of Appeals 02/23/15
State of Tennessee v. Robert B. Ledford
E2014-01010-CCA-R3-CD

The Appellant, Robert B. Ledford, appeals as of right from the Hamilton County Criminal Court’s summary denial of his Tennessee Rule of Criminal Procedure 36.1 motion to correct an illegal sentence. The Appellant contends that the trial court erred in summarily denying his motion because the motion stated a colorable claim for relief. Following our review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Hamilton County Court of Criminal Appeals 02/23/15
In Re Allison L., et al.
E2014-01448-COA-R3-PT

This is a termination of parental rights appeal. The Trial Court Judge announced a ruling from the bench at the conclusion of the final hearing below and then subsequently entered a written order vacating the oral ruling. The order vacating the oral ruling contemplates further proceedings in the Trial Court in that it allows for the filing of an Amended Petition to Terminate Parental Rights. Because there is no final written order terminating the parental rights of the appellant, Hearkner L., to her children, we have no jurisdiction to consider this appeal.

Washington County State Court Clerks 02/20/15
Francis L. Johnston v. Charles Glen "Chuck" Johnston
E2015-00213-COA-T10B-CV

This is an interlocutory appeal as of right pursuant to Tennessee Supreme Court Rule 10B from the Trial Court’s denial of a Motion to Recuse filed during post-judgment proceedings in a case involving a dispute over the validity of a check written against the revocable living trust of the decedent. Having reviewed the petition for recusal appeal filed by the Defendant/Appellant, Charles Glen Johnston (“Defendant”), pursuant to Rule 10B of the Rules of the Tennessee Supreme Court, we affirm the Trial Court.

Bradley County Court of Appeals 02/20/15
In Re Jonathan F.
E2014-01181-COA-R3-PT

This is a termination of parental rights case. The court-appointed Guardian ad Litem (“the Guardian”) for the minor child Jonathan F. (“the Child”) filed a petition 1 in the Juvenile Court for Sevier County (“the Juvenile Court”) seeking to terminate the parental rights of Amy F. (“Mother”) and Uriah F. (“Father”) to the Child. The Department of Children’s Services (“DCS”) filed a response joining in the Guardian’s petition. After a trial, the Juvenile Court terminated Mother’s and Father’s parental rights on a host of grounds. We vacate certain of the grounds as relates to Father. Otherwise, we affirm the termination of Mother’s and Father’s parental rights to the Child. We affirm the judgment of the Juvenile Court as modified.

Sevier County Court of Appeals 02/20/15
State of Tennessee v. Martinez Dennis
W2014-00403-CCA-R3-CD

Appellant, Martinez Dennis, was convicted by a Shelby County jury of felony murder during the perpetration of a robbery and was sentenced by the trial court to life in prison. In this appeal, he raises two issues: (1) whether the trial court erred in denying his motion to suppress his custodial statement to law enforcement officers; and (2) whether the evidence was sufficient to sustain his conviction. Upon our review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 02/20/15
Charles Edward Meeks v. State of Tennessee
M2014-01170-CCA-R3-ECN

In 1994, a jury found the Petitioner, Charles Edward Meeks, guilty of first degree premeditated murder, and the trial court sentenced him to serve a life sentence in prison.  On direct appeal, this Court affirmed the Petitioner’s conviction and sentence.  See State v. Charles Edward Meeks, No. 01C01-9506-CC-00170, 1995 WL 687695, at *1 (Tenn. Crim. App., at Nashville, Nov. 21, 1995), perm. app. denied (Tenn. May 6, 1996).  In March 1997, the Petitioner filed a post conviction petition, and this Court affirmed the post-conviction court’s denial of relief.  Charles Edward Meeks v. State, No. 01C01-9807-CC-00295, 1999 WL 173972, at *1 (Tenn. Crim. App., at Nashville, March 30, 1999), perm. app denied (Tenn. Oct. 11, 1999).  On January 10, 2005, the Petitioner filed for a writ of error coram nobis alleging that he had discovered new evidence.  The State filed a response to the petition requesting that the trial court dismiss the petition as untimely.  The trial court agreed, and  dismissed the petition on that basis.  We affirm the trial court’s judgment.

Grundy County Court of Criminal Appeals 02/20/15
Alejandro Avila-Salazar v. State of Tennessee
M2014-01665-CCA-R3-HC

In 2006, the Petitioner, Alejandro Avila-Salazar, pleaded guilty to second degree murder and attempted aggravated rape, and the trial court ordered the Petitioner to serve an effective sentence of forty years.  The Petitioner filed a petition for post-conviction relief, which was dismissed, and this Court affirmed the dismissal.  Alejandro Avila-Salazar v. State, No. M2008-02120-CCA-R3-PC, 2009 WL 3029604, at *1 (Tenn. Crim. App., at Nashville, Sept. 22, 2009), perm. app. denied (Tenn. Feb. 22, 2010).  Several years later, in 2014, the Petitioner filed a petition for habeas corpus relief, alleging that his guilty pleas were not knowingly and voluntarily entered because his sentence violated the jurisdictional limits of the trial court.  He further contended that the indictment against him failed to apprise him of the offense that he was being called to defend.  The habeas corpus court summarily dismissed the petition.  On appeal, the Petitioner contends that the habeas corpus court erred when it summarily dismissed his petition because his constitutional rights had been violated.  He further contends that he had been improperly denied “indigent status.”  After a thorough review of the record and applicable authorities, we affirm the habeas corpus court’s judgment.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 02/20/15
City of Memphis v. Shelby County, Tennessee
W2014-00890-COA-R3-CV

The ultimate issue in this lawsuit is how much of the electric and gas tax equivalent payments made by MLGW to the City of Memphis must be shared with Shelby County. The City claimed that it overpaid Shelby County in electric tax equivalents in recent years, while Shelby County claimed that it was underpaid in gas tax equivalents. The trial court found that the City paid the correct amount of electric tax equivalent payments for the years in question and rejected the City’s claim for damages for alleged overpayment. The trial court found that Shelby County was not entitled to a share of the gas tax equivalent payments for the years in dispute and rejected its claim for alleged underpayment. Accordingly, the trial court denied both parties’ claims for monetary damages. The trial court resolved the parties’ requests for declaratory and injunctive relief by declaring the manner and method of payment of the tax equivalents in the future. Both parties raise issues on appeal. For the following reasons, we affirm and remand for further proceedings.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 02/20/15
State of Tennessee v. Samuel L. Giddens, Jr.
M2014-01505-CCA-R3-CD

A Davidson County jury convicted the Defendant, Samuel L. Giddens, Jr., of reckless homicide, attempted especially aggravated robbery,1and aggravated burglary, and the trial court sentenced him to an effective sentence of fourteen years in prison.  The Defendant appealed his conviction and sentence, and this Court affirmed the trial court’s judgments.  See State v. Samuel L. Giddens, Jr., No. M2005-00691-CCA-R3-CD, 2006 WL 618312, at *1 (Tenn. Crim. App., at Nashville, Mar. 13, 2006), perm. app. denied (Tenn. June 26, 2006).  After filing several motions, all of which were dismissed or denied, the Defendant filed a motion pursuant to Tennessee Rule of Appellate Procedure 36.1 seeking to correct an illegal sentence.  The trial court denied the Defendant’s motion.  On appeal, the Defendant contends that the trial court erred because he should be awarded additional pretrial jail credits.  He further contends that his sentence for attempted especially aggravated robbery is not constitutional as it violates provisions against Double Jeopardy and that the resulting sentence is, therefore, not authorized.  After a thorough review of the record and applicable authorities, we affirm the trial court’s judgment.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 02/20/15
Carl J. Wagner v. State of Tennessee
M2014-01086-CCA-R3-PC

A Davidson County jury convicted the Petitioner, Carl J. Wagner, of first degree felony murder, second degree murder, and especially aggravated burglary. The trial court imposed a life sentence. The Petitioner appealed, and this Court affirmed the judgment for the second degree murder conviction and reversed the judgments for the first degree felony murder and especially aggravated kidnaping convictions. State v. Carl J. Wagner, No. M2010-00992-CCA-R3-CD, 2011 WL 2893098, at *1 (Tenn. Crim. App., at Nashville, July 20, 2011), perm. app. granted (Tenn. Jan. 11, 2012). Our Supreme Court reinstated the judgments for all three convictions. State v. Wagner, 382 S.W.3d 289, 291 (Tenn. 2012). The Petitioner subsequently filed a petition for post-conviction relief, in which he alleged that he was entitled to relief on multiple grounds, including that he had received the ineffective assistance of counsel. The post-conviction court dismissed the petition after a hearing. After a thorough review of the record and applicable law, we affirm the post-conviction court’s judgment.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 02/20/15
Susan Ellen Calfee Muhonen v. James Lucius Muhonen
E2013-02601-COA-R3-CV

This post-divorce parenting dispute arose when the father filed a petition to modify the parties’ permanent parenting plan as to their two minor children. Concomitantly with entry of the final judgment for divorce, the trial court had entered a permanent parenting plan order on January 19, 2007, designating the mother as the primary residential parent and granting the father residential co-parenting time on alternating weekends and Wednesday evenings. This parenting plan was later modified by agreement in an order entered June 17, 2008. Nearly five years later on July 27, 2012, the father filed the instant petition to modify the permanent parenting plan. He alleged that a dangerous situation existed at the mother’s home and requested an emergency ex parte order naming him the primary residential parent, which the trial court immediately granted. Upon a hearing, the trial court entered an order, inter alia, confirming the father as the primary residential parent, pending further proceedings, on August 13, 2012. Following a final hearing conducted approximately one year later, the trial court found that a material change in circumstance had occurred since entry of the June 2008 permanent parenting plan and that it was in the children’s best interest for the father to be declared their primary residential parent with sole decision-making authority. The mother has appealed. Discerning no reversible error, we affirm.

Bradley County Court of Appeals 02/20/15
Mark Clayton v. Roy Herron, et al
M2014-01497-COA-R3-CV

The trial court dismissed Plaintiff’s pro se complaint for failure to state a claim. Due to the deficiencies in Plaintiff’s brief on appeal, we find that he waived consideration of any issues on appeal and hereby dismiss the appeal.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 02/20/15
Estate of Marcia Hull v. Estate of George A. Culver, et al.
E2014-01213-COA-R3-CV

This is a declaratory judgment action in which Plaintiff appeals the trial court’s grant of summary judgment regarding the transfer of Marcia Hull’s monetary assets and jointly-held property to the Culver Estate. We affirm the decision of the trial court.

Monroe County Court of Appeals 02/19/15
State of Tennessee v. Jameca M. Tipler
W2014-00288-CCA-R3-CD

The Defendant-Appellant, Jameca M. Tipler, was indicted by the Madison County Grand Jury for attempted first degree premeditated murder, aggravated assault, felony evading arrest, reckless endangerment, and felony vandalism. The jury convicted Tipler of all the charged offenses except the felony vandalism charge, which the jury determined was a misdemeanor. The trial court merged the aggravated assault conviction with the attempted first degree murder conviction and sentenced Tipler to an effective sentence of twenty-five years. On appeal, Tipler argues: (1) the evidence is insufficient to support his convictions for attempted first degree murder, aggravated assault, reckless endangerment, and misdemeanor vandalism, and (2) the jury charge and verdict form were erroneous because they did not require the jury to determine whether he was criminally responsible before determining whether he was guilty of the underlying charges, and the trial court erred by not including an instruction on the natural and probable consequences rule in its instruction on criminal responsibility. Upon review, we remand to the trial court for entry of a judgment reflecting the modified conviction for facilitation of attempted first degree murder, which should also reflect the merger of the modified conviction for facilitation of aggravated assault with the conviction for facilitation of attempted first degree murder, for entry of a judgment reflecting the indicted offense of reckless endangerment by discharging a firearm into a habitation and the modified conviction for facilitation of reckless endangerment by discharging a firearm into a habitation, and for resentencing. We affirm the trial court in all other respects.

Madison County Court of Criminal Appeals 02/19/15
State of Tennessee v. James Antonio Bagwell
M2014-00017-CCA-R3-CD

A Montgomery County Circuit Court Jury convicted the appellant, James Antonio Bagwell, of two counts of attempted second degree murder, a Class B felony; two counts of aggravated assault while acting in concert with two or more other persons, a Class B felony; and one count of reckless endangerment by discharging a firearm into a habitation, a Class C felony. After a sentencing hearing, the appellant received concurrent sentences of ten years for each Class B felony conviction and five years for the Class C felony conviction for a total effective sentence of ten years. On appeal, the appellant contends that the evidence is insufficient to support the convictions; that the trial court committed plain error by failing to require that the State elect facts to support the attempted murder and aggravated assault charges; and that his effective sentence is excessive and should be served in an alternative to confinement. Based upon the record and the parties’ briefs, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

 

Montgomery County Court of Criminal Appeals 02/19/15
Richard Blanchard v. State of Tennessee
M2014-00112-CCA-R3-PC

The Petitioner, Richard Blanchard, was convicted of aggravated robbery, and the trial court sentenced him to an eleven-year sentence. This Court affirmed his conviction and sentence on appeal. State v. Richard Lowell Blanchard, No. M2010-1186-CCA-R3-CD, 2011 WL 2533753, at *1 (Tenn. Crim. App., at Nashville, June 24, 2011), perm. app. denied (Tenn. June 12, 2013). The Petitioner filed a petition seeking post-conviction relief, and, after a hearing, the post-conviction court denied the Petitioner relief. The Petitioner now appeals, maintaining that he received the ineffective assistance of counsel. After a review of the record, we affirm the post-conviction court’s judgment.

Bedford County Court of Criminal Appeals 02/18/15
Everett Spencer Barnette v. State of Tennessee
E2014-00902-CCA-R3-CD

The Defendant, Everett Spencer Barnette, appeals as of right from the Sullivan County Criminal Court’s denial of his motion to withdraw his nolo contendere pleas. The Defendant contends (1) that he received ineffective assistance from his trial counsel; and (2) that his pleas were not knowingly, voluntarily, and understandingly entered. Following our review, we conclude that the Defendant’s pleas were not knowingly, voluntarily, and understandingly entered. Accordingly, we reverse the judgments of the trial court and remand the case to the trial court for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

Sullivan County Court of Criminal Appeals 02/13/15
State of Tennessee v. Jacqueline Crank
E2012-01189-SC-R11-CD

The defendant, who was indicted for child neglect based upon her failure to obtain medical treatment for her daughter, challenged the constitutionality of the “spiritual treatment” exemption within the child abuse and neglect statute. The exemption, which is set out in Tennessee Code Annotated section 39-15-402(c), precludes the prosecution of parents who “provide[] treatment by spiritual means through prayer alone in accordance with the tenets or practices of a recognized church or religious denomination by a duly accredited practitioner thereof in lieu of medical or surgical treatment.” The defendant moved to dismiss the charge against her,claiming that the exemption was unconstitutionallyvague and violated the Establishment and Equal Protection Clauses of the Federal Constitution, as well as the comparable provisions of the Tennessee Constitution. The trial court denied the motion to dismiss. Following a bench trial, the trial court determined that the defendant did not qualify for the spiritual treatment exemption, found her guilty of child neglect, and imposed a sentence of eleven months and twenty-nine days, all to be served on unsupervised probation. The Court of Criminal Appeals affirmed the conviction without addressing the merits of the constitutional claims. We hold that the spiritual treatment exemption is not unconstitutionally vague. Because the exemption may be elided without invalidating the remainder of the child abuse and neglect statute, the defendant’s remaining constitutional challenges, even if successful, would not afford her relief. As a result, we decline to address whether the exemption violates the Establishment or Equal Protection Clauses of the Federal Constitution or the corresponding provisions in article I, section 3 and article XI, section 8 of the Tennessee Constitution. The judgment of the Court of Criminal Appeals is affirmed.

Loudon County Supreme Court 02/13/15
Frances Rodgers, et al. v. Yarboro A. Sallee
E2013-02067-COA-R3-CV

The plaintiffs sued the defendant, their former attorney, to recover fees the plaintiffs had paid to the defendant, as well as punitive damages for alleged misrepresentations made by the defendant. The trial court granted a default judgment in favor of the plaintiffs. The defendant thereafter filed a motion seeking to set aside the default judgment, alleging that she was not properly served with process. Before the trial court entered a written order regarding the defendant’s motion to set aside the default judgment, the defendant filed a motion seeking recusal of the trial judge. The trial court subsequently entered an order denying the defendant’s motion to set aside the default judgment, as well as an order dismissing various motions for sanctions, while the recusal motion was pending. The court thereafter entered an order granting the defendant’s motion for recusal. The defendant has appealed. We determine that the trial court erred in entering orders regarding contested matters while the motion seeking recusal was pending. We therefore vacate the trial court’s orders and remand the case for further proceedings regarding the defendant’s motion to set aside the default judgment.

Knox County Court of Appeals 02/13/15
Preston McNees Specialty Woodworking, Inc., et al. v. The Daniel Co. (Danco), Inc.
E2014-01004-COA-R3-CV

This case involves the proper interpretation of a contract between a general contractor and a subcontractor. The trial court determined that the subcontractor was entitled to recover additional sums above the original contract price based on the doctrine of equitable estoppel. The general contractor timely appealed. Having determined that the scope of the parties’ contract covered the work in question and that the doctrine of equitable estoppel does not apply in this matter, we vacate the trial court’s judgment.

Washington County Court of Appeals 02/13/15