Tennessee Administrative Office of the Courts

Appellate Court Opinions

Format: 09/05/2015
Format: 09/05/2015
In re The Conservatorship of Cody Lee Wade
W2014-01769-COA-R3-CV

The trial court approved Petitioners'/Conservators' petition to establish a Supplemental Needs Trust for their Ward but declined to approve a proposed remainder provision naming two charities as beneficiaries. The trial court ruled that any amounts remaining in the Trust when it terminated would be distributed under the laws of intestate succession. The trial court also excluded evidence offered by Petitioners to demonstrate what they asserted was the Ward's intent. We affirm, as modified.

Weakley County Court of Appeals 08/05/15
State of Tennessee v. Travis Ware
E2014-02172-CCA-R3-CD

The petitioner, Travis Ware, appeals the trial court’s denial of his motion to correct an illegal sentence pursuant to Tennessee Rule of Criminal Procedure 36.1. On appeal, he contends that the trial court erred in dismissing his petition because he received illegal concurrent sentences for crimes that he committed while released on bail. Following our review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Bradley County Court of Criminal Appeals 08/05/15
State of Tennessee v. Travis Ware - Dissent
E2014-02172-CCA-R3-CD

I respectfully disagree with the majority’s conclusion that a petitioner is not entitled to seek relief under Rule 36.1 when his sentence has been fully served. “On its face, Rule 36.1 does not limit the time within which a person seeking relief must file a motion, nor does it require the person seeking relief to be restrained of liberty.” State v. Donald Terrell, No. W2014-00340-CCA-R3-CO, 2014 WL 6883706, at *2 (Tenn. Crim. App. at Jackson, Dec. 8, 2014).

Bradley County Court of Criminal Appeals 08/05/15
Frederick Michael Borman v. Larry Kevin Pyles-Borman
E2014-01794-COA-R3-CV

In this case a same-sex couple lawfully married in Iowa sought to obtain a divorce in Tennessee and raised a constitutional challenge to Tenn. Const. art. XI, § 18 and Tenn. Code Ann. § 36-3-113 (collectively “the Anti-Recognition Laws”). Tennessee‟s Attorney General was granted leave to intervene in the suit. After a hearing the Circuit Court for Roane County (“the Trial Court”) held, inter alia, that the Anti-Recognition Laws did not violate the United States Constitution. Frederick Michael Borman appealed to this Court. While the appeal was pending, the United States Supreme Court issued its Opinion in Obergefell v. Hodges, 576 U.S. ___ (2015) holding, inter alia, that a State may not refuse to recognize a lawful same-sex marriage performed in another State. We, therefore, reverse the Trial Court's judgment.

Roane County Court of Appeals 08/04/15
State of Tennessee v. Glen B. Howard
E2014-01510-CCA-R3-CD

Defendant, Glen B. Howard, was indicted by the Hamilton County Grand Jury with five counts of rape of a child and one count of aggravated sexual battery. After a jury trial, Defendant was found guilty of four counts of rape of a child and one count of aggravated sexual battery as charged and one count of aggravated sexual battery as a lesser included offense of rape of a child. He was sentenced to an effective sentence of fifty years in incarceration. After a thorough review of the record, and in light of State v. John J. Ortega, Jr., No. M2014-01042-CCA-R3-CD, 2015 WL 1870095 (Tenn. Crim. App. Apr. 23, 2015), we determine that Defendant‟s conviction for aggravated sexual battery as a lesser included offense of rape of a child was improper. We are unable to determine from the record whether the evidence supports a conviction for the next properly charged lesser included offense, child abuse. Consequently, we vacate the conviction for aggravated sexual battery. The remaining convictions and fifty year sentence are affirmed. Accordingly, the judgments of the trial court are affirmed in part, vacated in part, and remanded for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

Hamilton County Court of Criminal Appeals 08/04/15
Dewayne Leggs v. David B. Westbrook, Warden
M2015-00210-CCA-R3-HC

Petitioner, Dewayne Leggs, is appealing the order of the trial court denying his petition seeking habeas corpus relief.  The State has filed a motion asking this Court to affirm pursuant to Court of Criminal Appeals Rule 20.  The motion is hereby granted.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 08/04/15
State of Tennessee v. Caleb Joseph Latham
E2014-01606-CCA-R3-CD

The Defendant, Caleb Joseph Latham, entered guilty pleas to driving under the influence (“DUI”), first offense, and DUI per se. See Tenn. Code Ann. § 55-10-401. As a part of his guilty pleas, the Defendant reserved a certified question of law pursuant to Tennessee Rule of Criminal Procedure 37(b)(2) challenging his warrantless seizure. Following our review, we conclude that the trial court should have granted the Defendant's motion to suppress because he was subjected to a seizure without reasonable suspicion. The ruling of the trial court is reversed, and the charges against the Defendant are dismissed.

Blount County Court of Criminal Appeals 08/03/15
State of Tennessee v. Darrell Anderson
W2014-01626-CCA-R3-CD

The defendant, Darrell Anderson, was convicted of attempted aggravated assault, a Class D felony. On appeal, he argues that the evidence is insufficient to sustain his conviction. Following our review of the briefs of the parties, the record, and the applicable law, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Madison County Court of Criminal Appeals 08/03/15
Leroy Johnson v. State of Tennessee
W2014-01993-CCA-R3-ECN

Petitioner, Leroy Johnson, pled guilty to second degree murder and was sentenced to twenty-two years in the Department of Correction. He subsequently filed a petition for writ of error coram nobis that was summarily dismissed by the trial court as being time-barred and for failing to allege newly discovered evidence. Petitioner now appeals the denial of his petition. After review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 08/03/15
State of Tennessee v. Courtney Knowles
W2013-00503-SC-R11-CD

The dispositive issue in this appeal is whether an inaccuracy in the prosecution's election of offenses amounted to plain error that entitles the defendant to relief. Although the Court of Criminal Appeals erred by failing to subject the election issue to plain error analysis, we hold, after thoroughly reviewing the record pursuant to the plain error doctrine, that the election error does not entitle the defendant to relief. Despite the inaccuracy, the election was sufficiently specific to eliminate any substantial risk that the jury would return a non-unanimous verdict. Additionally, the defendant has failed to provide a complete record of the proceedings in the trial court. Accordingly, under these circumstances, we affirm, on the separate grounds stated, the Court of Criminal Appeals' judgment upholding the defendant's conviction of rape of a child.

Shelby County Supreme Court 07/31/15
State of Tennessee v. Courtney Knowles - Dissent
W2013-00503-SC-R11-CD

“Hard cases, it has frequently been observed, are apt to introduce bad law.” Winterbottom v. Wright, 152 Eng. Rep. 403, 404 (1842). The same is true of “cases in which . . . moral indignation . . . is aroused” by egregious facts. Glanville Williams, The Sanctity of Life and the Criminal Law 105 (1957). The defendant here, convicted of the rape of a child and already serving a forty-year sentence for related federal offenses, deserves no sympathy. Because, however, constitutional principles sometimes get in the way of what might otherwise qualify as a just punishment, I must dissent from my colleagues. The fundamental principle at issue here is the right to a unanimous jury verdict, see Tenn. Const. art. I, § 6, which requires the State to elect the specific evidence it is relying upon for a conviction when the jury hears proof of more than one instance of sexual misconduct. State v. Johnson, 53 S.W.3d 628, 630 (Tenn. 2001). Regrettably, the State misidentified the factual basis for the charged offense in this instance. Because this error, although clearly inadvertent, served to undermine the fundamental right to a unanimous verdict, I believe that a new trial should be ordered.

Shelby County Supreme Court 07/31/15
In re Conservatorship of Scott D. Melton
E2014-01384-COA-R3-CV

In this conservatorship case, East Tennessee Human Resources Agency was appointed as the financial conservator for the ward. The first annual accounting was approved by all parties. The trial court approved the second annual accounting and the subsequent final accounting following the ward's death. The ward's daughter objected and filed numerous other motions challenging the handling of the ward's finances. The trial court denied each motion and closed the conservatorship. The daughter appeals. We affirm.

Anderson County Court of Appeals 07/31/15
In re Serenity L.
E2014-02475-COA-R3-PT

Christina L. ("Mother") and Ian C. ("Father") appeal the termination of their parental rights to the minor child Serenity L. ("the Child"). We find and hold that the Juvenile Court for Washington County ("the Juvenile Court") did not err in finding that clear and convincing evidence existed of grounds to terminate Mother‘s parental rights pursuant to Tenn. Code Ann. § 36-1-113(g)(1) and § 36-1-102(1)(A)(i) for abandonment by willful failure to visit and by willful failure to support and § 36-1-113(1)(A)(iv) for wanton disregard; and to terminate Father‘s parental rights pursuant to Tenn. Code Ann. § 36-1-113(g)(1) and § 36-1-102(1)(A)(iv) for wanton disregard and § 36-1-113(g)(9) for failure to manifest the ability and willingness to assume custody, risk of substantial harm, and failure to establish paternity. We further find and hold that the Juvenile Court did not err in finding that clear and convincing evidence existed that it was in the Child‘s best interest for Mother‘s and Father‘s parental rights to be terminated. We, therefore, affirm the termination of Mother‘s and Father‘s parental rights to the Child.

Washington County Court of Appeals 07/31/15
Quentin Elliott Lawrence v. Jessica Marcel Broadnax
E2015-00214-COA-R3-CV

This post-divorce appeal concerns the mother's notice of intent to relocate with the parties' minor child. The father responded by filing a petition in opposition to the requested relocation. Following a hearing, the trial court granted the father's petition. The mother appeals. We reverse the order of the trial court and remand for further proceedings regarding the best interest of the minor child.

Hamilton County Court of Appeals 07/31/15
State of Tennessee v. Danny Branam
E2014-01345-CCA-R3-CD

A Knox County jury convicted the Defendant, Danny Branam, of felony murder committed during the perpetration of aggravated child abuse and aggravated child abuse. The trial court sentenced the Defendant to life in prison for the felony murder conviction with a consecutive twenty-year sentence for the aggravated child abuse conviction. On appeal, the Defendant contends that the trial court erred when it denied his motion for a mistrial and that the evidence is insufficient to sustain his convictions. After a thorough review of the record and applicable law, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/31/15
Patricia Ross v. Robert T. Stooksbury, Jr.
E2014-01219-COA-R3-CV

Robert T. Stooksbury, Jr. (the creditor) obtained a judgment in federal district court against, among others, Rebecca Ross Jordan, the daughter of Patricia Ross, the plaintiff in the case now before us. The creditor then attempted, in federal court, to garnish the funds in three bank accounts jointly held by Jordan and plaintiff. Plaintiff argued to the federal court that the funds should not be subject to garnishment because, according to her, they were solely owned by plaintiff. The federal district court, applying Tenn. Code Ann. § 45-2-703(a) (2007), held that the “applicable statutory authority directs that the moneys deposited into the account[s] owned by both Ms. Ross and Ms. Rebecca Ross Jordan are subject to the claims of creditors of either depositor . . .” and, consequently, the federal court allowed execution on and garnishment of the funds. The federal court later ordered, without objection by plaintiff, disbursement of the funds to the creditor. Plaintiff then brought this action under Tenn. Code Ann. § 45-2-703(a), which provides in pertinent part that “any other depositor not indebted to the creditor may, by commencing a separate action against the creditor, establish the rights that the depositor may have in the funds.” The creditor in the case now before us filed a motion to dismiss on the ground that plaintiff’s claim was barred by the doctrine of res judicata. The trial court agreed and dismissed plaintiff’s action. We affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Blount County Court of Appeals 07/31/15
Arthur B. Roberts et al. v. Robert Bailey et al.
M2013-01950-SC-R11-CV

The plaintiffs filed suit against the defendants to settle a boundary dispute. During the litigation, the defendants, who had for years enjoyed the continuous and exclusive possession of their lands, discovered that their ancestors, husband and wife, had acquired title during the “gap years” and, in consequence, had owned the lands as tenants in common rather than tenants by the entirety. The defendants, proceeding as third-party plaintiffs, filed a motion to quiet title against third-party defendants, also descendants of their ancestors, who each claimed an ownership interest in the disputed lands by inheritance. The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of the third-party defendants. The Court of Appeals affirmed. On remand, the defendants/third-party plaintiffs amended their complaint, seeking to establish title by prescription. The trial court again denied relief, and the Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that the third-party defendants‟ “undisputed ignorance” of their status as co-tenants in common with their relatives precluded a “presumptive ouster” and, therefore, prevented the defendants/third-party plaintiffs from taking title by prescription. Because the undisputed facts establish that each of the elements of title by prescription has been satisfied, the Court of Appeals is reversed and the original defendants are awarded title by prescription. This cause is remanded to the trial court for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

Loudon County Supreme Court 07/31/15
State of Tennessee v. James W. Grooms, Jr.
E2014-00668-CCA-R3-CD

The Defendant-Apellant, James W. Grooms, Jr., was convicted by a Hawkins County jury of two counts of aggravated assault, for which he received an effective sentence of four years and six months' confinement. On appeal, the Defendant asserts that (1) the trial court committed plain error by instructing the jury that aggravated assault was a lesser-included offense of attempted first degree murder, and (2) the evidence is insufficient to sustain his conviction for aggravated assault. Upon our review, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Hawkins County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/30/15
Raymond Andrew Herbst v. State of Tennessee
M2014-01918-CCA-R3-PC

Petitioner, Raymond Andrew Herbst, filed a petition for post-conviction relief, alleging that his guilty pleas to one count of rape and three counts of attempted rape were constitutionally infirm because he was not informed that he would be subject to lifetime community supervision.  Because due process does not require tolling of the statute of limitations, the decision of the post-conviction court is affirmed.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/30/15
State of Tennessee v. Brent Allen Blye
E2014-00220-CCA-R3-CD
A Sullivan County Circuit Court Jury convicted the appellant, Brent Allen Blye, of possession of 26 grams or more of cocaine with the intent to sell, a Class B felony; simple possession of dihydrocodeinone, a Class A misdemeanor; and simple possession of less than one-half ounce of marijuana, a Class A misdemeanor. The trial court sentenced him as a Range II, multiple offender to an effective sentence of twelve years in the Tennessee Department of Correction. In this delayed appeal, the appellant contends that the trial court erred by refusing to allow him to question a co-defendant about her criminal history; that the trial court erred by giving, or failing to give, certain jury instructions; and that the trial court erred by allowing a police detective to testify about the value of the cocaine. The State concedes that the trial court erred by instructing the jury that the simple possession offenses could be committed with a mens rea of recklessness but contends that the error was harmless. The State maintains that the trial court committed no other error. Upon review, we conclude that the trial court erred in its jury instruction regarding the necessary mens rea for the lesser included offense of simple possession of cocaine but that the error was harmless. For the charged offenses of simple possession of dihydrocodeinone and marijuana, we conclude that the trial court also erred in its instructions on the necessary mens rea and that the error was not harmless. Therefore, we must reverse those convictions and remand for a new trial.
 
Sullivan County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/30/15
Patricia Bazemore v. Performance Food Group, Inc. et al.
E2014-01877-COA-R3-CV

Patricia Bazemore brought this action against her former employer, Performance Food Group, Inc. (PFG) and Barry Pearson, a former employee of PFG. Ms. Bazemore claimed that, while she and Mr. Pearson were working for PFG, she was subjected to a pattern of unwanted sexual harassment by him – conduct that she alleges created a hostile work environment in violation of the Tennessee Human Rights Act (THRA). As a result of the unwanted sexual harassment, Ms. Bazemore also alleged constructive discharge, intentional infliction of emotional distress, negligent infliction of emotional distress, and negligent supervision and retention.1 PFG subsequently filed a motion for summary judgment, contending that no genuine issue of material fact exists in support of Ms. Bazemore’s claims against PFG as an entity. The trial court ultimately granted PFG’s motion for summary judgment after finding (1) no evidence of a hostile work environment; (2) facts indicating that PFG took reasonable steps to prevent sexual harassment from occurring; (3) proof that PFG’s response to Ms. Bazemore’s complaint was objectively reasonable; (4) insufficient evidence to support the claims of either intentional or negligent infliction of emotional distress; and (5) no proof of negligent retention and supervision by PFG. We affirm.

Hamilton County Court of Appeals 07/30/15
Anthony Travis Richards v. Veronica Denise Richards
E2014-02123-COA-R3-CV

Anthony Travis Richards (Husband), who was incarcerated in the custody of the Tennessee Department of Correction, filed this divorce action against Veronica Denise Richards (Wife). Husband also filed a “motion for leave of court to appear by means of video communications technology or, in the alternative, by telephone in lieu of personal attandence” in accordance with Tenn. Code Ann. § 41-21-809 (2014). The trial court did not address Husband’s motion. Rather, the court entered an order dismissing Husband’s complaint predicated on his failure to appear and prosecute the action. We hold that the trial court committed prejudicial error by dismissing Husband’s action without first considering his pending motion. Accordingly, we vacate the trial court’s judgment and remand for further proceedings.

Roane County Court of Appeals 07/30/15
State of Tennessee v. Plaise Edward Spangler
E2014-01958-CCA-R3-CD

The defendant, Plaise Edward Spangler, appeals the revocation of his probation, raising essentially the following issues: whether the trial court abused its discretion by finding that the defendant violated the terms of his probation by failing to submit to a drug screen and failing to pay court costs and fees when neither failure was willful; whether the trial court erred by not considering all lesser alternative means to incarceration, including intensive drug rehabilitation by referral to a drug court; and whether the trial judge committed plain error by not sua sponte recusing himself because he had been the prosecutor in a number of the defendant's previous criminal cases. Following our review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

McMinn County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/30/15
David Solima v. Stephanie Solima
M2014-01452-C0A-R3-CV

Mother, the primary residential parent, filed a petition seeking permission to relocate to Texas with the parties’ minor son. Father opposed Mother’s petition and filed a separate petition to be designated the primary residential parent. One week before trial, Mother notified the court that her petition to relocate was moot because she no longer needed to relocate; the trial proceeded on Father’s petition. Following trial, the court did not name Father the primary residential parent but increased Father’s residential parenting time. The trial court also modified child support by imputing additional income to Father upon a finding his current income was “significantly less than . . . his ability to earn,” and decreasing Mother’s because she recently lost her job and was unemployed as of the trial. Father appealed, contending that the trial court erred by failing to designate him as the primary residential parent. He also contends the court erred in modifying child support based on imputed income above his salary, and a finding that Mother’s ability to earn had diminished. Mother did not allege that Father was voluntarily or willfully underemployed; therefore, Father was not put on notice the issue would be tried. Furthermore, because the issue was not tried by consent, the court erred in imputing income to Father. Accordingly, we reverse the imputation of additional income to Father and remand the issue of child support. We affirm the trial court in all other respects.

Williamson County Court of Appeals 07/30/15
A-1 Waste, LLC v. Madison County Municipal Solid Waste Planning Region Board, et al.
M2013-02665-COA-R3-CV

The Madison County solid waste planning region board rejected an application, submitted on behalf of A-1 Waste, LLC, to construct a solid waste landfill.  In light of the rejection, the Commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation declined to issue the landfill permit.  A-1 Waste appealed the region board’s rejection to the Chancery Court for Davidson County.  A-1 Waste also requested review of the Commissioner’s action by the Tennessee Solid Waste Disposal Control Board.  The chancery court stayed A-1 Waste’s appeal pending the outcome of the control board’s review.  The control board reversed the region board and ordered that the permit be granted.  The region board subsequently petitioned the chancery court for review of the control board’s decision.  The chancery court consolidated A-1 Waste’s appeal with the appeal filed by the region board and a third action filed by a group of concerned citizens.  Following a hearing, the chancery court reversed the control board’s decision and the issuance of the permit.  On appeal,   A-1 Waste claims the trial court applied an incorrect standard of review to the region board’s decision and that the decision was properly reversed by the control board.  A-1 Waste also claims that the group of concerned citizens lacked standing to seek judicial review of the control board’s decision.  We conclude that the control board lacked authority to review the region board’s decision and that the region board properly rejected the permit application.  We also conclude the concerned citizens had standing to appeal the control board’s decision.  Therefore, we affirm.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 07/30/15