Tennessee Administrative Office of the Courts

Appellate Court Opinions

Format: 11/26/2014
Format: 11/26/2014
State of Tennessee v. Courtney Eugene Dukes
E2014-00154-CCA-R3-CD

The Defendant, Courtney Eugene Dukes, appeals the Hamilton County Criminal Court’s revoking his probation and ordering his effective four-year sentence into execution. The Defendant contends that the trial court abused its discretion by revoking his probation. We affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Hamilton County Court of Appeals 11/07/14
Cyntoia Denise Brown v. State of Tennessee
M2013-00825-CCA-R3-PC

The Petitioner, Cyntoia Denise Brown, appeals the Davidson County Criminal Court’s denial of her petition for post-conviction relief from her convictions of first degree premeditated murder, first degree felony murder, and especially aggravated robbery and resulting concurrent sentences of life and eight years.  On appeal, the Petitioner contends that she received the ineffective assistance of counsel, that she is “entitled to relief under error coram nobis,” that her mandatory life sentence is unconstitutional, and that she was denied due process.  Based upon the oral arguments, the record, and the parties’ briefs, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 11/06/14
David Michael Williams, et al v. Timothy Wayne Smith
M2013-02606-COA-R3-CV

This appeal arises from an underinsured motorist coverage claim that hinges on the validity of a choice of law provision in the insurance policy. Plaintiffs were involved in a car wreck in Tennessee while driving a vehicle they borrowed from North Carolina residents.Although the borrowed vehicle was owned by North Carolina residents, the car owners had elected an insurance policy with a Missouri choice of law provision because their daughter principally used the car in Missouri where she attended college. At issue in this appeal is whether the law of Missouri or North Carolina controls.If Missouri law controls,there is no underinsured motorist coverage; if North Carolina law controls, there is coverage. The trial court found that the Missouri choice of law provision was valid and enforceable because the choice of law provision was not contrary to a fundamental policy of North Carolina. We affirm.

Putnam County Court of Appeals 11/06/14
Gregory Lee Boggs Et Al v. Dinah K. Rhea
E2013-02859-COA-R3-CV

Gregory Lee Boggs and Lisa Danielle (Pickens) Boggs (“Plaintiffs”) sued Dinah K. Rhea (“Defendant”) with regard to a motor vehicle accident that occurred in May of 2010 in Washington County, Tennessee. Defendant admitted responsibility for the accident and the case was tried before a jury solely on the issue of damages. After trial the Circuit Court for Greene County (“the Trial Court”) entered judgment on the jury’s verdict finding and holding that Plaintiffs were not entitled to any damages. Plaintiffs appeal to this Court raising issues concerning the jury’s verdict, denial of their motion for additur or a new trial, and claimed improper statements by defense counsel in his closing argument. Defendant raises an issue on appeal with regard to the Trial Court’s denial of her motion for discretionary costs. We find and hold that the record on appeal contains material evidence to support the jury’s verdict and that there are no other reversible errors related to Plaintiffs’ issues. We further find and hold that Defendant is entitled to an award of discretionary costs, and we remand to the Trial Court for a determination of the appropriate amount of discretionary costs. We affirm as modified.

Greene County Court of Appeals 11/06/14
State of Tennessee v. Emonnie Dion Branch, Jr.
M2013-01843-CCA-R3-CD

The appellant, Emonnie Dion Branch, Jr., pled guilty in the Sumner County Criminal Court to twenty-three offenses resulting from two home invasions, two convenience store robberies, and an assault of a fellow inmate.  The trial court imposed a total effective sentence of one hundred and thirty years.  On appeal, the appellant challenges the length of the sentences imposed by the trial court.  Upon review, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Sumner County Court of Criminal Appeals 11/06/14
Gabrielle Howell, et al v. Metropolitan Sexually Oriented Business Licensing Board
M2013-02369-COA-R3-CV

Owner of a sexually oriented nightclub filed a writ of certiorari challenging the Respondent Board’s decision to sanction the nightclub for the inappropriate behavior of an entertainer. The trial court affirmed the decision of the Board. The nightclub raises several errors on appeal. Discerning no error, we affirm.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 11/05/14
State of Tennessee v. Anthony Todd Ghormley
E2013-01932-CCA-R3-CD

In an opinion filed on January 20, 2012, this court determined that the trial court erred by failing to hold a competency hearing and remanded the case to the trial court to conduct a retrospective competency hearing. See State v. Anthony Todd Ghormley, No. E2010-00634-CCA-R3-CD (Tenn. Crim. App., Knoxville, Jan. 20, 2012) (Ghormley I). Following the hearing on remand, the trial court concluded that the defendant was competent to stand trial. The defendant now appeals that decision. Discerning no error, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Blount County Court of Criminal Appeals 11/05/14
Doris Williams v. State of Tennessee
M2014-00033-CCA-R3-PC

Petitioner, Doris Williams, pleaded guilty to second degree murder and received an out-of-range sentence of thirty-five years to be served at 100%.  In her post-conviction petition, she claimed that she received ineffective assistance of counsel and that her guilty plea was not knowing and voluntary.  The post-conviction court denied relief.  On appeal, petitioner argues that she was heavily medicated during trial counsel’s representation of her and during her plea hearing, that trial counsel did not advise her in a manner she could comprehend due to said medication, and that she entered her guilty plea without a full understanding of the consequences.  Following our review, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 11/05/14
State of Tennessee v. Roy Anthony Haley
M2013-02756-CCA-R3-CD

The defendant, Roy Anthony Haley, appeals his Bedford County Circuit Court jury conviction of theft of property valued at $10,000 or more but less than $60,000, contending that the sentence imposed by the trial court was excessive.  We affirm the conviction and sentence but remand for correction of a clerical error in the judgment.

Bedford County Court of Criminal Appeals 11/05/14
Lisa Howe, et al. v. Bill Haslam - Concur
M2013-01790-COA-R3-CV

In concur in the majority’s decision to affirm the trial court’s dismissal of the claims arising from HB600’s reordering of the political process. I also join Judge McBrayer in his determination that the claim of the Gay Straight Alliance of Hume Fogg Academic Magnet High School survives dismissal on standing grounds, as the State’s Answer to the original Complaint is insufficient to determine the applicability of HB600.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 11/04/14
Ronnie Lee Johnson v. State of Tennessee
M2014-01198-CCA-R3-ECN

The Appellant, Ronnie Lee Johnson, appeals the trial court’s summary denial of his petition for a writ of error coram nobis.  The judgment of the trial court is affirmed.

Putnam County Court of Criminal Appeals 11/04/14
Lisa Howe, et al. v. Bill Haslam - Concur in Part
M2013-01790-COA-R3-CV

I agree with Judge Farmer’s conclusion that the claims arising from HB600’s
reordering of the political process, which strips Appellants of the ability to seek antidiscrimination
protections at the local level, should be dismissed. However, because I find
the United States Supreme Court precedent in Romer v. Evans, 517 U.S. 620 (1996), difficult
to distinguish by reference to the structural barrier it imposes, I write separately. I would
instead distinguish Romer because, unlike the amendment at issue there, the burden HB600
imposes applies equally to any group seeking protected status. Therefore, Appellants have
not suffered a particularized injury sufficient to confer standing.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 11/04/14
Lisa Howe, et al. v. Bill Haslam
M2013-01790-COA-R3-CV

Plaintiffs allege that a 2011 act of the General Assembly adding a definition of “sex” to the
Tennessee Human Rights Act and creating the Equal Access to Intrastate Commerce Act,
now codified at Tennessee Code Annotated § 7-51-1801(1) & (2), violates the Equal
Protection guarantees of the United States and Tennessee Constitutions. The trial court
dismissed the action for lack of standing. We dismiss the claims of Plaintiffs Wesley Roberts
and the Gay/Straight Alliance of Hume-Fogg Academic Magnet High School as moot where
the Defendant Governor concedes that the Equal Access to Intrastate Commerce Act does
not apply to Local Education Agencies or Tennessee schools. We affirm dismissal of the
remaining Plaintiffs for lack of standing where they have failed to allege a discrete, palpable,
cognizable injury in fact.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 11/04/14
Andrew J. Braden, III v. Tennessee Board of Probation, et al. - Dissent
M2013-02036-COA-R3-CV

I write separately to emphasize two troubling procedural issues with the majority Opinion. First, I am troubled by this Court’s analysis with regard to the timeliness of the filing of Mr. Braden’s petition for a writ of certiorari. Second, I disagree that this case is appropriate for summary disposition. For these reasons, I respectfully dissent.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 11/04/14
Andrew J. Braden, III v. Tennessee Board of Probation, et al.
M2013-02036-COA-R3-CV

This is a pro se appeal from a denial of parole. Inmate/Appellant avers several problems
surrounding his parole hearing that he claims violate his due process and equal protection
rights, and violate the ex post facto constitutional prohibition. Because a prisoner has no
liberty interest in release on parole before the expiration of his sentence, due process
protections do not attach to parole determinations. Because, at the time of Appellant’s crime
and conviction, the law regarding parole gave total discretion to the Board and authorized
denial if the Board found that parole would depreciate the seriousness of the crime
committed, application of this ground for denial of parole does not violate ex post facto
prohibitions. Because Appellant has failed to prove that race was an issue in the Board’s
decision to deny him parole, no equal protection violation was shown. Consequently, we
affirm the trial court’s dismissal of the petition upon grant of summary judgment. Affirmed
and Remanded.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 11/04/14
Tammy Gipson v. State Farm Fire and Casualty Company, et al.
W2013-02872-COA-R3-CV

I fully concur with the majority that the trial court’s grant of summary judgment should be reversed in light of the factual dispute over ownership of the automobile operated by Ms. Gipson at the time of the accident.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 11/04/14
Tammy Gipson v. State Farm Fire and Casualty Company, et al.
W2013-02872-COA-R3-CV

Following Appellant’s involvement in an automobile accident and the subsequent denial of coverage by her insurance company (the Appellee herein), Appellant brought the instant action against Appellee, alleging breach of contract, bad faith refusal to pay, violation of the Tennessee Consumer Protection Act, and intentional misconduct. The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of the Appellee. Appellant appeals. We conclude that there is a dispute of material fact as to the ownership of the subject vehicle; this dispute of material fact precludes summary judgment. Accordingly, we reverse the trial court’s order and remand for a hearing on the merits. Reversed and Remanded.

Stewart County Court of Appeals 11/04/14
Ivan Charles Graves v. State of Tennessee
E2013-02445-CCA-R3-PC

Petitioner, Ivan Charles Graves, appeals from the post-conviction court’s denial of his petition for post-conviction relief, claiming that he received the ineffective assistance of counsel at trial. Petitioner was convicted by a Knox County jury of first degree premeditated murder and felony murder in the perpetration of a kidnapping. The trial court merged Petitioner’s convictions and sentenced Petitioner to life in prison. Following an evidentiary hearing, the post-conviction court denied relief. After a careful review of the record, we conclude that Petitioner has failed to establish that he is entitled to post-conviction relief. Accordingly, the judgment of the post-conviction court is affirmed.

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 11/04/14
State of Tennessee v. Ernest H. Pyle
E2013-01977-CCA-R3-CD

Defendant, Ernest H. Pyle, was charged by presentment with two counts of especially aggravated kidnapping, two counts of aggravated kidnapping, and one count of resisting arrest. The trial court dismissed at the request of the State the two counts of aggravated kidnapping. A petit jury convicted Defendant of the remaining counts. The trial court properly merged Defendant’s two counts of especially aggravated kidnapping and sentenced Defendant to 25 years’ incarceration. In this appeal as of right, Defendant contends that the evidence was insufficient to support his conviction, and that trial court erred by not granting a mistrial after allowing evidence of a prior bad act. Having carefully reviewed the record before us and the briefs of the parties, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Sevier County Court of Criminal Appeals 11/03/14
State of Tennessee v. Carl Miller Jr.
W2014-00054-CCA-R3-CD

A Shelby County grand jury indicted Defendant, Carl Miller, Jr., for aggravated sexual battery, sexual battery by an authority figure, and rape. Defendant was tried before a jury. Over the objection of Defendant, the trial judge declared a mistrial based on manifest necessity. Thereafter, Defendant moved to dismiss the indictment based on double jeopardy. The trial court denied the motion. Defendant entered a plea of guilty to rape, reserving a certified question related to the trial court’s denial of the motion. Following our review of the record and the applicable law, we affirm the trial court’s denial of the motion to dismiss the indictment.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 11/03/14
State of Tennessee v. Michael Kizer
W2013-02559-CCA-R3-CD

Michael Kizer (“the Defendant”) was convicted by a jury of two counts of aggravated robbery and one count of attempted aggravated robbery. Following a sentencing hearing, the Defendant received a total effective sentence of forty-five years’ incarceration. In this direct appeal, the Defendant contends that the trial court improperly severed his case from that of his co-defendant and that the trial court erred in allowing the State to reopen its proof in order to introduce the testimony of his co-defendant. After a thorough review of the record and the applicable law, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 11/03/14
State of Tennessee v. Laquita Monique Hogan
M2013-02340-CCA-R3-CD

This direct appeal presents a certified question of law pursuant to Rule 37(b)(2)(A) of the Tennessee Rules of Criminal Procedure.  After the trial court denied her motion to suppress, Defendant, Laquite Monique Hogan, entered a guilty plea in the Maury County Circuit Court to facilitation of possession of a schedule II drug for sale and was sentenced to three years to be suspended and served on probation.  Defendant properly reserved the following certified question of law: “whether there was a sufficient nexus that continued to persist at the time the search warrant was executed due to the fact that the location of the alleged sales was away from the residence and the affidavit does not include facts that Jason Coleman was seen coming and returning to his home from the sale which was to have occurred 96 hours ago; whether the alleged facts that Mr. Coleman was monitored leaving from his home and returning within 30 days of the execution of the warrant was stale information and whether the record supports the finding that both prongs of Aguil[]ar-Spinelli have been satisfied.” After a thorough review of the record and applicable authorities, we conclude that Defendant is not entitled to relief in this appeal.  Accordingly, we affirm the trial court’s order denying Defendant’s motion to suppress, and we affirm Defendant’s judgment of conviction.

Maury County Court of Criminal Appeals 11/03/14
Sherry Harper v. Bradley County, Tennessee
E2014-00107-COA-R9-CV

The issue presented on this appeal is whether a plaintiff who brings a health care liability action against a governmental entity under the Governmental Tort Liability Act (“the GTLA”) is entitled to the 120-day extension of the statute of limitations provided by Tenn. Code Ann. § 29-26-121(c)(Supp. 2014) under the current version of the Health Care Liability Act (“the HCLA”). This inquiry focuses on the effect of the 2011 amendment to the HCLA that expressly includes “claims against the state or a political subdivision thereof” within the definition of “health care liability action.” Applying the principles set forth by the Supreme Court in Cunningham v. Williamson Cnty. Hosp. Dist., 405 S.W.3d 41 (Tenn. 2013), we hold that the 2011 amendment demonstrates a clear intent on the part of the General Assembly to allow the GTLA’s one-year statute of limitations to be extended by 120 days in cases where a plaintiff satisfies the requirements of the HCLA. We affirm the judgment of the trial court denying defendant Bradley County’s motion to dismiss.

Bradley County Court of Appeals 11/03/14
In Re: Kadean T.
M2013-02684-COA-R3-PT

The father and step-mother of the child at issue commenced this action to terminate the parental rights of the child’s mother and for step-parent adoption. The trial court terminated Mother’s parental rights on the grounds of abandonment by willful failure to support and by willful failure to visit the child, pursuant to Tenn. Code Ann. § 36-1-102(1)(A)(i), and upon the determination that termination of Mother’s rights was in the best interest of the child, pursuant to Tenn. Code Ann. §§ 36-1-113(c)(2) and (i). The trial court further determined that step-parent adoption was in the best interest of the child. Mother appeals. We affirm the determination that Mother abandoned her child pursuant to Tenn. Code Ann. § 36-1113(g)(1) by willfully failing to visit her child and by willfully failing to support her child during the four-month period preceding the filing of this petition. However, because the trial court failed to provide written findings of fact as mandated by Tenn. Code Ann. § 36-1-113(k), we reverse the trial court’s determination that termination of Mother’s parental rights was in the best interest of the child. Accordingly, we remand the issue of the child’s best interest to the trial court with instructions to provide written findings of fact on the issue of the child’s best interest and to enter judgment consistent with its findings.

Dickson County Court of Appeals 10/31/14
James Cullum, et al v. Baptist Hospital System, Inc., et al
M2014-01905-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 for recusal. Having reviewed the petition for recusal appeal pursuant to the de novo standard as required under Rule 10B, § 2.06, we affirm the trial court’s decision to deny the motion for recusal.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 10/31/14