Tennessee Administrative Office of the Courts

Appellate Court Opinions

Format: 11/24/2014
Format: 11/24/2014
Rebecca A. Dixon Tatum v. Don Baron Tatum
E2013-02462-COA-R3-CV

This appeal arises from a divorce action. Following a hearing, the trial court awarded a divorce to both parties on the ground of inappropriate marital conduct. The court also awarded transitional alimony to Wife. Wife appeals the court’s finding that she engaged in inappropriate marital conduct, while Husband appeals the court’s award of alimony to Wife. We affirm the decision of the trial court.

Bradley County Court of Appeals 10/28/14
State of Tennessee v. Racris Thomas
W2013-00851-CCA-R3-CD

A Shelby County Criminal Court Jury convicted the appellant, Racris Thomas, of two counts of especially aggravated kidnapping, one count of aggravated robbery, one count of attempted aggravated robbery, and one count of being a convicted felon in possession of a handgun. The trial court imposed a total effective sentence of seventy years in the Tennessee Department of Correction. On appeal, the appellant contends that the evidence is not sufficient to sustain his convictions and that the trial court erred by refusing to declare a mistrial after the jury instructions revealed that the felony underlying the charge for being a felon in possession of a handgun was a prior aggravated robbery. Upon review, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 10/27/14
Michael Bo Heath v. State of Tennessee
E2014-00590-CCA-R3-PC

The Petitioner, Michael Bo Heath, appeals the Sullivan County Circuit Court’s denial of his petition for post-conviction relief from his convictions for second degree murder and three counts of tampering with or fabricating evidence and his effective twenty-seven-year sentence. The Petitioner contends that he received the ineffective assistance of counsel. We affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Sullivan County Court of Criminal Appeals 10/27/14
Romelio R. Ruiz v. Sheila Lea Ruiz
E2013-02142-COA-R3-CV

In this divorce case, the appellant Sheila Lea Ruiz (Wife) argues (1) that the trial court erred in its calculation of the net marital estate, and (2) that the award of alimony to her should have been in futuro rather than for a fixed five-year period. We hold that, although the trial court unintentionally charged Husband twice with an indebtedness arising out of a loan he took out against his 401(k) retirement account, the overall division of the net marital estate is equitable when the true total value of the net marital estate is considered. Regarding alimony, we hold that, considering the relevant statutory factors, particularly the some 30- year duration of the marriage, the state of Wife’s health, the huge disparity in the parties’ earning capacities, Wife’s need for support, and Romelio R. Ruiz’s (Husband) ability to pay, the alimony award should be modified to make it an award in futuro. Accordingly, we modify the alimony award by changing it from $1,300 per month for five years to $1,000 per month in futuro until Wife dies or remarries. We remand this case to the trial court for a determination of Wife’s reasonable attorney’s fees at trial and on appeal, said awards to be in the nature of alimony in solido.

Hamilton County Court of Appeals 10/27/14
State of Tennessee v. Lee Ann Lynch
E2014-00246-CCA-R3-CD

The Defendant, Lee Ann Lynch, appeals the Blount County Circuit Court’s order revoking her community corrections sentence for her conviction for promotion of methamphetamine manufacture and ordering her four-year sentence into execution. The Defendant contends that the trial court abused its discretion by revoking her community corrections sentence. We affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Blount County Court of Criminal Appeals 10/27/14
Chris Tavino v. Victoria Ashley Spear Tavino
E2013-02587-COA-R3-CV

This case involves a post-divorce petition to modify the parties’ permanent parenting plan as to their minor child and to terminate the child support obligation owed by the father. The parties were divorced in 2002. The original permanent parenting plan designated the mother as the primary residential parent, awarded co-parenting time to the father, and set the father’s child support obligation in the amount of $1,158.00 monthly. In April 2011, the father petitioned for a modification of the parenting plan and child support, averring that the oldest child had reached the age of majority and that the youngest child had been residing exclusively with the father since October 2009. In February 2012, the trial court entered an agreed permanent parenting plan designating the father as the primary residential parent and an agreed order terminating the father’s wage assignment but reserving the issue of child support. In July 2012, following a settlement conference and a subsequent hearing, the trial court entered another agreed order providing, inter alia, that the mother begin paying the father $409.00 monthly in child support. Additionally, the mother was ordered to pay $500.00 monthly toward a total award of $20,057.00 owed to the father, including a child support arrearage of $6,135.00, reimbursement for child support overpayments in the amount of $10,422.00, and $3,500.00 toward the father’s attorney’s fees. The mother’s counsel withdrew representation pursuant to the agreed order. Acting without benefit of counsel, the mother subsequently filed a petition in October 2012, averring that her income had been
misrepresented for purposes of calculating her child support obligation. Following a bench hearing, the trial court entered an order in March 2013, finding that the mother had failed to allege a change in circumstances warranting a modification of her ongoing child support obligation. Approximately four months later, the mother, acting through her current counsel, filed a Tennessee Rule of Civil Procedure 60.02 motion to alter or amend the judgment. In addition to requesting that the trial court set aside the July 2012 agreed order, the mother averred that the father was not parenting the minor child properly.

Knox County Court of Appeals 10/27/14
State of Tennessee v. Broderick Devonte Fayne
W2012-01488-SC-R11-CD

The defendant and an accomplice were indicted for aggravated burglary and employment of a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony. At the trial of the defendant, the court denied a request by the defense for a special jury instruction on the definition of actual and constructive possession as an element of employment of a firearm.  The jury convicted the defendant on both charges, and the trial court imposed an effective nine-year sentence. On appeal, the defendant argued that the trial court erred by denying his request for the special jury instruction and by failing to instruct the jury on the crime of possession of a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felonyas a lesser included offense. The Court of Criminal Appeals affirmed the trial court. We hold that possession of a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony qualifies as a lesser included offense of employment of a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony. In this instance, however, the defendant waived the issue, and he is not entitled to relief under the plain error doctrine. We further hold that the trial court did not err by refusing the defendant’s request for a special instruction on the definition of possession. Accordingly, the judgment of the Court of Criminal Appeals is affirmed.
 

Tipton County Supreme Court 10/27/14
State of Tennessee v. Corey M. Willis
M2014-00252-CCA-R3-CD

The defendant, Corey M. Willis, was charged with various driving under the influence (DUI) offenses.  He filed a motion to suppress, alleging that the police lacked reasonable suspicion to perform the traffic stop.  The trial court granted the motion, and the State appeals.  Upon review, we affirm the trial court’s ruling.

Williamson County Court of Criminal Appeals 10/27/14
John J. Kratochvil v. James M. Holloway, Warden
M2014-00600-CCA-R3-HC

The petitioner, John J. Kratochvil, filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus, seeking relief from his conviction of second degree murder.  The habeas corpus court denied the petition, and the petitioner appeals.  Upon review, we affirm the judgment of the habeas corpus court.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 10/27/14
Patricia Hawkins v. Maury County Board of Education, et al.
M2013-01083-WC-R3-WC

The employee filed a workers compensation action alleging that she suffered a lower back injury in the course of her employment as a school counselor. Her employer denied the claim. The trial court found that the employee failed to prove that the injury had occurred in the course and scope of her employment and dismissed the case. Judgment was entered accordingly, and the employee appealed. The appeal was referred to the Special Workers Compensation Appeals Panel for a hearing and a report of findings of fact and conclusions of law. We affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Maury County Workers Compensation Panel 10/23/14
State of Tennessee v. Caleb Lawrence Mullins
W2013-02691-CCA-R3-CD

The Defendant, Caleb Lawrence Mullins, pleaded guilty to second degree murder, theft of property, and tampering with evidence. The trial court sentenced him to serve an effective sentence of thirty-seven years in the Tennessee Department of Correction. On appeal, the Defendant contends that the trial court misapplied one enhancement factor and two consecutive sentencing factors. After a thorough review of the record and the applicable authorities, we affirm the trial court’s judgments.

Madison County Court of Criminal Appeals 10/22/14
State of Tennessee v. Omar Robinson
E2014-00393-CCA-R3-CD

Appellant, Omar Robinson, pleaded guilty to two counts of possession of cocaine with intent to sell and two counts of simple possession of marijuana. Appellant later filed a motion to correct an illegal sentence pursuant to Tennessee Rule of Criminal Procedure 36.1, which the trial court summarily dismissed, holding that appellant’s sentence had expired. On appeal, appellant argues that the trial court erred by summarily dismissing his motion because an illegal sentence may be challenged at any time pursuant to Rule 36.1. The State concedes that this case should be remanded to the trial court. Following our review of the parties’ briefs, the record, and the applicable law, we reverse the trial court’s judgment and remand for proceedings consistent with this opinion.

Loudon County Court of Criminal Appeals 10/22/14
In Re Glory A.W.
E2013-02303-COA-R3-PT

William L.W. (“Father”) appeals the termination of his parental rights to the minor child Glory A.W. (“the Child”). We find and hold that the evidence does not preponderate against the Juvenile Court for Roane County’s (“the Juvenile Court”) finding by clear and convincing evidence that grounds were proven to terminate Father’s parental rights for
abandonment by failure to provide a suitable home pursuant to Tenn. Code Ann. § 36-1- 113(g)(1) and § 36-1-102(1)(A)(ii); for substantial noncompliance with the permanency plan pursuant to Tenn. Code Ann. § 36-1-113(g)(2); and for persistent conditions pursuant to Tenn. Code Ann. § 36-1-113(g)(3). We further find and hold that the evidence does not preponderate against the Juvenile Court’s finding by clear and convincing evidence that it was in the Child’s best interest for Father’s parental rights to be terminated. We affirm the Juvenile Court’s February 19, 2014 order terminating Father’s parental rights to the Child.

Roane County Court of Appeals 10/21/14
State of Tennessee v. Ibrahim Talafhah
M2013-01556-CCA-R3-CD

The Defendant, Ibrahim Talafhah, was convicted after a bench trial in the Wilson County Criminal Court of harassment, a Class A misdemeanor.  See T.C.A. § 39-17-308(a)(2) (2014).  The trial court sentenced the Defendant to serve ten days in jail with the balance of his eleven-month, twenty-nine-day sentence to be served on probation.  On appeal, the Defendant contends that the trial court erred by denying him his constitutional right to a jury trial.  We conclude that the Defendant was denied his right to a jury trial, and we reverse the judgment of the trial court and remand the case for a new trial.

Wilson County Court of Criminal Appeals 10/21/14
Gary Guseinov v. Synergy Ventures, Inc, et al
M2014-00213-COA-R3-CV

This case involves the enrollment of a foreign judgment in Tennessee. The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of plaintiff, effectively enrolling the foreign judgment pursuant to the Full Faith and Credit Clause of the United States Constitution and Tennessee’s Uniform Foreign Judgment Enforcement Act. On appeal, the defendant argues that the grant of summary judgment was improper because he allegedly satisfied the foreign judgment.  He further argues that the trial court denied him due process when it declined to conduct an evidentiary hearing. We hold that satisfaction is not a defense to the enrollment of a foreign judgment pursuant to the Full Faith and Credit Clause of the United States Constitution or Tennessee’s Uniform Foreign Judgment Enforcement Act. Further, we discern no due process violation from the trial court’s decision not to conduct an evidentiary hearing. The judgment of the trial court is affirmed.

Williamson County Court of Appeals 10/21/14
In Re: Carrington H., et al
M2014-00453-COA-R3-PT

This appeal arises from the termination of Mother’s parental rights. After a five-year cycle of removal and failed reunification attempts, the juvenile court awarded temporary custody of the child to the State in 2009, and shortly thereafter, ordered that Mother have no visitation or contact with her child. The court later ratified a permanency plan, but nearly two years later, the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services petitioned to terminate Mother’s parental rights. Following a trial, the juvenile court entered an order terminating Mother’s parental rights on the grounds of: (1) substantial noncompliance with the permanency plan; (2) persistence of the conditions that led to the child’s removal; and (3) incompetency to adequately provide for the further care and supervision of the child. Mother appeals two of the three grounds for termination and the court’s determination that termination was in the best interest of the child. We affirm.

Maury County Court of Appeals 10/21/14
O'Neal Johnson v. State of Tennessee
W2013-02313-CCA-R3-PC

The petitioner, O’Neal Johnson, appeals the post-conviction court’s denial of his petition for post-conviction relief, arguing that he received the ineffective assistance of counsel. After review, we affirm the denial of the petition.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 10/21/14
State of Tennessee v. John Brent
W2013-01252-CCA-R3-CD

The defendant, John Brent, was convicted of aggravated robbery and aggravated burglary, for which he was sentenced, respectively, to thirty years at 100% and fifteen years at 45%, the sentences to be served concurrently. On appeal, he argues that he is entitled to a new trial because the court erred in allowing into evidence a photograph of a pair of scissors which were similar to those in the victim’s home; that the evidence was insufficient to support either of his convictions; and that his sentence is excessive. Following our review, we conclude that the defendant’s claims are without merit and affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 10/21/14
State of Tennessee v. Delquan Bolton
W2013-00539-CCA-R3-CD

The defendant, Delquan Bolton, was convicted by a Shelby County Criminal Court jury of rape of a child, a Class A felony, and aggravated sexual battery, a Class B felony. He was sentenced to terms of twenty-five years and ten years, respectively, to be served concurrently in the Department of Correction. On appeal, he argues that the trial court erred in admitting character evidence and that the evidence is insufficient to sustain his convictions. After review, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 10/21/14
State of Tennessee v. Cynthia Gail Harvey
M2013-02391-CCA-R3-CD

The Defendant, Cynthia Gail Harvey, appeals from her Humphreys County jury conviction for felony theft, (1) challenging the trial court’s denial of her motion to dismiss for lack of a speedy trial and (2) contending that she received ineffective assistance of counsel at trial. Upon considering the relevant authorities and the record, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Humphreys County Court of Criminal Appeals 10/21/14
Mike Cradic v. McCoy Motors, Inc., et al.
E2013-02857-COA-R3-CV

This appeal arises from a dispute over payment on a note (“the Note”). McCoy Motors, Inc. borrowed $90,000.00 from A. D. Kinkead (“Kinkead”). The Note provided, among other things, that the loan could be renewed at the end of twelve month periods and that, if Kinkead died before the Note was fully paid, the principal of the unpaid balance would be paid to William L. McCoy, Jr. and Sue McCoy. Kinkead’s attorney-1 in-fact, Mike Cradic (“Cradic”), informed McCoy that Kinkead was demanding that the Note be paid in full. McCoy refused to pay in full but instead continued to make payments on the Note. Kinkead, through Cradic, sued the McCoys in the Law Court for Sullivan County (Kingsport) (“the Trial Court”) to compel full payment on the Note. Kinkead died and Cradic pursued the suit.
The Trial Court found that demand had been made on the Note, and that at the end of the twelve month period during which demand was made, the Note came due and payable. The Trial Court entered judgment against McCoy Motors, Inc., and the McCoys, individually. McCoy Motors, Inc. and the McCoys appeal. We affirm the Trial Court.

Sullivan County Court of Appeals 10/20/14
Herman Roland, Jr. , et al. v. Kelli Bridwell, et al.
E2014-00435-COA-R3-CV

This case involves a dispute as to whether the defendants’ predecessors in title abandoned an easement to a shared driveway either through an express intention to abandon the easement or by inference. The defendants deny that there was an intention to abandon the right-of-way. After a bench trial, the trial court found that the plaintiffs failed to present evidence to support their claim that the predecessors in title abandoned the driveway easement. Accordingly, the trial court entered a judgment that the easement has not been abandoned by the defendants or their predecessors in title. The court further concluded that the easement was to be used for ingress and egress only, and prohibited the parties from parking on or obstructing the easement in any way. The parties were found equally responsible for the upkeep and maintenance of the shared driveway. The trial court also determined that the garage maintenance agreement had been terminated. Plaintiffs appeal. We affirm.

Carter County Court of Appeals 10/20/14
Gerald Freeburg ETC v. Phillip Turner
E2013-02688-COA-R3-CV

This appeal arises from a child support matter. Gerald Freeburg (“Freeburg”), continuing in place of his adult daughter who died during the pendency of these proceedings, pursued a child support claim of his daughter against Phillip Turner (“Turner”) in the Chancery Court for Cumberland County (“the Trial Court”). Freeburg submitted what purportedly was an order from an Oklahoma court reflecting Turner’s child support arrearage. The Trial Court held that the purported order from Oklahoma did not constitute a court order and dismissed the matter. Freeburg timely appealed. We affirm the judgment of the Trial Court.

Cumberland County Court of Appeals 10/17/14
Shemeka Metin Ibrahim v. Murfreesboro Medical Clinic Surgi Center, et al.
M2013-00631-COA-R3-CV

The trial court dismissed sua sponte Plaintiff’s healthcare liability and fraud claims for failure to state a claim for which relief can be granted. It accordingly dismissed her motions to continue for the purpose of retaining counsel as moot, and denied her motion to recuse. We reverse denial of Plaintiff’s motions for continuance, vacate dismissal of her action for failure to state a claim, affirm denial of her motion to recuse, and remand for further proceedings consistent with this Opinion.

Rutherford County Court of Appeals 10/17/14
Pamela A. Moritz v. Michael P. Tulay
E2013-01528-COA-R3-CV

This is a post-divorce action involving issues of child custody, co-parenting time, and child support. The parties, Pamela Moritz (“Mother”) and Michael Tulay (“Father”), were divorced in Knox County in 2002. By agreement of the parties, custody of their children was vested in Mother, with Father being granted co-parenting time. Mother moved to Pennsylvania with the children in 2005 despite Father’s objection to such relocation. Father continued to enjoy co-parenting time with the children and pay child support to Mother. In 2007, Father filed a petition seeking to modify his child support obligation due to the oldest child’s reaching the age of majority. Thereafter, through a lengthy procedural history marked by Mother’s continuing failure to abide by the trial court’s orders, custody of the remaining minor child was granted to Father in 2009 while Mother was granted only supervised coparenting time. Mother did not appeal the 2009 order. Subsequently, in 2012, Mother filed petitions seeking to modify the custody award and invalidate the trial court’s prior orders. The trial court affirmed its earlier award of custody to Father as Mother presented no evidence of a material change of circumstance affecting the child’s best interest. The court also determined that Mother’s petitions to invalidate the earlier orders were untimely. Mother has appealed. Discerning no error, we affirm.

Knox County Court of Appeals 10/17/14