Supreme Court Opinions

Format: 06/30/2015
Format: 06/30/2015
Clayton Arden v. Kenya I. Kozawa, M. D. et al
E2013-01598-SC-R11-CV
Authoring Judge: Chief Justice Sharon G. Lee
Trial Court Judge: Judge J. Michael Sharp

The primary issue presented is whether a health care liability case must be dismissed because the plaintiff sent the health care defendants pre-suit notice of the claim via a commercial carrier, FedEx, instead of using certified mail, return receipt requested, through the United States Postal Service. The defendants moved for summary judgment, asserting that the plaintiff failed to comply with the requirements of Tennessee Code Annotated sections 29-26-121(a)(3)(B) and (a)(4) (2012). The defendants did not allege they failed to receive notice or were prejudiced by the plaintiff’s method of service. The trial court dismissed the complaint, holding that strict compliance with the manner and proof of service requirements of Tennessee Code Annotated sections 29-26-121(a)(3)(B) and (a)(4) was required. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that substantial compliance was sufficient to satisfy the statutory content requirements of the notice, but that the plaintiff’s failure to send the notice by certified mail constituted deficient service. We hold that the manner and proof of service prescribed by Tennessee Code Annotated sections 29-26-121(a)(3)(B) and (a)(4) may be achieved through substantial compliance. The defendants received notice and were not prejudiced by the manner of service. Therefore, the use of FedEx to deliver the notice and the filing of proof of service with the complaint constituted substantial compliance with the manner and proof of service requirements of the pre-suit notice statute. The judgment of the Court of Appeals is reversed, and the case is remanded to the trial court for further proceedings.

Monroe County Supreme Court 06/30/15
State of Tennessee v. Terrence Justin Feaster
E2012-02636-SC-R11-CD
Authoring Judge: Justice Gary R. Wade
Trial Court Judge: Senior Judge Jon Kerry Blackwood

The defendant was convicted of attempted voluntary manslaughter, aggravated assault, and false imprisonment. After determining that the separate convictions for attempted voluntary manslaughter and aggravated assault did not violate double jeopardy, the trial court imposed consecutive sentences totaling twenty-six years, eleven months, and twenty-nine days. A divided panel of the Court of Criminal Appeals affirmed, finding no double jeopardy violation. This Court granted the defendant’s application for permission to appeal to determine whether due process safeguards prohibit the retroactive application of the double jeopardy standard adopted in State v. Watkins, 362 S.W.3d 530 (Tenn. 2012), which was decided after the date of his offenses. The defendant argues that the former double jeopardy standard set out in State v. Denton, 938 S.W.2d 373 (Tenn. 1996), should apply. Because our ruling in Watkins cannot be classified as “unexpected” or “indefensible” by reference to prior law, due process does not preclude its retroactive application. The judgment of the Court of Criminal Appeals is affirmed.

Knox County Supreme Court 06/25/15
Richard A. Berent v. CMH Homes, Inc., et al
E2013-01214-SC-R11-CV
Authoring Judge: Justice Holly Kirby
Trial Court Judge: Judge Ward Jeffrey Hollingsworth

In this appeal, we are asked to overrule established precedent regarding the circumstances under which an arbitration provision in an adhesive consumer contract is rendered unconscionable and unenforceable based on non-mutual remedies, i.e., mandating arbitration for the consumer but reserving a judicial forum for the merchant. This case involves an adhesion contract for the sale of a manufactured home. The contract includes an arbitration provision under which the sellers retain the right to seek relief in a judicial forum for limited purposes. After the buyer took possession of the home, he filed a lawsuit against the sellers for breach of contract, and the sellers filed a motion to compel arbitration. The trial court denied the motion to compel. In reliance on this Court’s decision in Taylor v. Butler, 142 S.W.3d 277 (Tenn. 2004), the trial court held that the non-mutuality of remedies in the arbitration provision rendered it unconscionable and invalid. The Court of Appeals affirmed, also relying on Taylor. We granted permission to appeal to address whether the ruling in Taylor is preempted by the Federal Arbitration Act under the reasoning in AT&T Mobility LLC v. Concepcion, 131 S. Ct. 1740 (2011), and to address whether Taylor should be overruled or modified in light of the current majority view in other jurisdictions on the validity of arbitration contracts that include non-mutual remedies. We hold that Taylor did not adopt a per se rule that any degree of non-mutuality of remedies in an arbitration provision in an adhesion contract renders the provision unconscionable and unenforceable. Consequently, the ruling in Taylor is not preempted by federal law. In addition, after reviewing the law in other jurisdictions, we decline to overrule or modify the ruling in Taylor. Applying Taylor to the contract in this case, we conclude that the sellers’ retention of a judicial forum for limited purposes does not render the arbitration agreement unconscionable. Accordingly, we reverse the decisions of the Court of Appeals and the trial court and remand to the trial court for further proceedings. 

Hamilton County Supreme Court 06/05/15
State of Tennessee v. Marlo Davis
W2011-01548-SC-R11-CD
Authoring Judge: Chief Justice Sharon G. Lee
Trial Court Judge: Judge W. Mark Ward

I concur in the Court’s opinion; however, I write separately to express my concerns about the delay in the trial of this case and the evidentiary problems caused by the delay. Quincy Jones was shot to death on November 9, 2006. The Defendant was arrested on November 13, 2006, and a preliminary hearing was held on January 17, 2007. At the hearing, Jarcquise Spencer testified about what he saw at the time of the murder, including his recollection of seeing the Defendant pull a gun, point it at the victim, and shoot him. 

Shelby County Supreme Court 06/03/15
State of Tennessee v. Marlo Davis
W2011-01548-SC-R11-CD
Authoring Judge: Justice Jeffrey S. Bivins
Trial Court Judge: Judge Mark Ward

The Defendant, Marlo Davis, was charged with alternative counts of first degree felony murder and first degree premeditated murder. The jury convicted the Defendant of second degree murder as a lesser-included offense of felony murder and of reckless homicide as a lesser-included offense of premeditated murder. The trial court subsequently merged the reckless homicide conviction into the second degree murder conviction and sentenced the Defendant as a Range II offender to forty years’ imprisonment. The Court of Criminal Appeals affirmed. We granted the Defendant permission to appeal and now address three issues: (1) whether the trial court committed reversible error by admitting as substantive evidence a prior statement and the preliminary hearing testimony of a testifying witness; (2) whether the evidence was sufficient to support the Defendant’s alternative convictions of second degree murder and reckless homicide; and (3) whether the jury’s inconsistent verdicts entitle the Defendant to relief. We hold that the trial court’s admission of the testifying witness’ prior statement and preliminary hearing testimony was not reversible error and that the evidence was sufficient to support the Defendant’s convictions. We also reject the Defendant’s argument that the jury’s inconsistent verdicts entitle him to relief. Accordingly, we affirm the trial court’s judgment of second degree murder.

Shelby County Supreme Court 06/03/15
Timothy Davis ex rel. Katherine Michelle Davis v. Michael Ibach, MD, et al.
W2013-02514-SC-R11-CV
Authoring Judge: Justice Jeffrey S. Bivins
Trial Court Judge: Judge William B. Acree

The Plaintiff filed a medical malpractice action against the Defendants. Following the Defendants’ motions to dismiss the action, asserting that the certificate of good faith was noncompliant with the requirement in Tennessee Code Annotated section 29-26-122(d)(4) (Supp. 2008), the trial court granted the Plaintiff’s request to voluntarily dismiss the action. The Defendants appealed, and the Court of Appeals affirmed the order of the trial court. We granted review to determine whether the requirement of Tennessee Code Annotated section 29-26-122(d)(4) that a certificate of good faith filed in a medical malpractice action disclose the number of prior violations of the statute by the executing party also requires disclosure of the absence of any prior violations of the statute. We hold that it does not. Accordingly, the judgment of the Court of Appeals is affirmed.

Dyer County Supreme Court 05/29/15
Ike J. White, III v. David A. Beeks, M.D.
E2012-02443-SC-R11-CV
Authoring Judge: Chief Justice Sharon G. Lee
Trial Court Judge: Judge J. Michael Sharp

The issue in this health care informed consent case is whether the trial court erred by limiting the testimony of plaintiff patient’s expert witness regarding the risks that the defendant doctor was required to disclose to obtain the patient’s informed consent for surgery.  The doctor performed a spinal fusion on the patient.  His back pain initially improved, but subsequently worsened.  The patient sued the doctor, claiming his back pain was caused by nerve compression due to ectopic bone growth at the site of the fusion.  The patient alleged that the doctor failed to give him adequate information to enable him to give an informed consent to the surgery.  In a pretrial deposition, the patient’s expert testified that to obtain informed consent, the doctor was required to advise the patient that he would use a bone-grafting protein and inform the patient about all the potential risks arising from its use, including risks that allegedly caused harm and risks that did not cause harm.  The trial court granted the doctor’s motion to limit the patient’s expert witness testimony to only those risks that allegedly materialized and injured the patient.  The jury returned a verdict in favor of the doctor.  In a divided opinion, the Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court’s exclusion of the expert medical testimony.  We hold that the trial court erred by excluding expert testimony regarding undisclosed medical risks that had not materialized.  Because this error, more probably than not, influenced the jury’s verdict, the patient is awarded a new trial.  

Bradley County Supreme Court 05/18/15
State of Tennessee v. Larry Jereller Alston, Kris Theotis Young, and Joshua Edward Webb - CONCUR
E2012-00431-SC-R11-CD
Authoring Judge: Justice Jeffrey S. Bivins
Trial Court Judge: Judge Mary Beth Leibowitz

I concur in the Court’s opinion in this case authored by Chief Justice Lee. That opinion represents the correct analysis and result based upon the existing analytical framework currently utilized by this Court in this area of the law. Although I agree that this is not the case to revisit the issue at this point in time, I write separately to express my concern about this existing analytical framework.

Knox County Supreme Court 05/05/15
State of Tennessee v. Larry Jereller Alston, Kris Theotis Young, and Joshua Edward Webb
E2012-00431-SC-R11-CD
Authoring Judge: Chief Justice Sharon G. Lee
Trial Court Judge: Judge Mary Beth Leibowitz

We granted review in this case to determine whether a jury instruction based on our decision in State v. White, 362 S.W.3d 559 (Tenn. 2012), must be given when a defendant is charged with the offenses of kidnapping and aggravated burglary. The defendants threatened the victim with guns and took her purse as she was getting into her car outside of her residence. The defendants forced the victim to enter her home and followed her inside. They forced the victim to sit on her couch while they ransacked her home. Police apprehended the defendants as they attempted to flee. The defendants were indicted for aggravated robbery of the victim’s purse, aggravated burglary of the victim’s home, especially aggravated kidnapping, and possession of a firearm with the intent to go armed during the commission of a dangerous felony. A jury convicted the defendants of all charges. The trial court set aside the guilty verdicts for especially aggravated kidnapping and aggravated burglary, finding that these convictions, in conjunction with the aggravated robbery convictions, violated principles of due process. The trial court also dismissed the firearms convictions. The Court of Criminal Appeals reversed and reinstated the verdicts. Upon appeal, we remanded the case to the Court of Criminal Appeals for consideration in light of our holding in State v. Cecil, 409 S.W.3d 599 (Tenn. 2013), which made our holding in White applicable to cases in the appellate process. On remand, the intermediate appellate court reached the same result. We hold that a kidnapping charge accompanied by an aggravated burglary charge does not, standing alone, warrant a White jury instruction. However, the trial court erred by not giving a White jury instruction based on the especially aggravated kidnapping and aggravated robbery charges, but the error was harmless beyond a reasonable doubt.

Knox County Supreme Court 05/05/15
State of Tennessee v. Latickia Tashay Burgins
E2014-02110-SC-R8-CO
Authoring Judge: Chief Justice Sharon G. Lee
Trial Court Judge: Judge Bobby R. McGee

We granted review in this case to determine whether Tennessee’s bail revocation statute, Tennessee Code Annotated section 40-11-141(b), is constitutional, and if so, to establish the procedure to be followed in bail revocation proceedings. A Knox County grand jury returned a presentment against the defendant for simple possession of marijuana. The defendant posted bond and was released. Subsequently, a Knox County grand jury issued a nineteen-count presentment against the defendant, charging her with multiple crimes, including attempted first degree murder, employing a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony, attempted especially aggravated robbery, attempted carjacking, and aggravated assault. The trial court, pursuant to Tennessee Code Annotated section 40 11 141(b), granted the State’s motion to revoke the defendant’s bail. The Court of Criminal Appeals reversed, holding that the statute violated article I, section 15 of the Tennessee Constitution. We hold that the Tennessee Constitution guarantees a defendant the right to pretrial release on bail, but this right is not absolute. A defendant may forfeit her right to bail by subsequent criminal conduct. Before pretrial bail can be revoked, the defendant is entitled to an evidentiary hearing. We remand this case to the trial court for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.  

Knox County Supreme Court 04/07/15
State of Tennessee v. Jeremy Wendell Thorpe
M2012-02676-SC-R11-CD
Authoring Judge: Justice Jeffrey S. Bivins
Trial Court Judge: Judge Monte Watkins

We granted the application for permission to appeal of Jeremy Wendell Thorpe (“the Defendant”) in this case to determine whether the trial court properly included a jury instruction for criminal attempt as a lesser-included offense of sexual battery by an authority figure. If we answer in the affirmative, we also must determine whether the evidence presented at trial was sufficient to support the Defendant’s conviction for criminal attempt to commit sexual battery by an authority figure. After a thorough review of the record and applicable law, we hold that the trial court properly included a jury instruction for criminal attempt as a lesser-included offense of sexual battery by an authority figure and that the evidence is sufficient to support the Defendant’s conviction. Accordingly, we affirm the decision of the Court of Criminal Appeals.

Davidson County Supreme Court 04/06/15
State of Tennessee v. Dominic Eric Frausto
E2011-02574-SC-R11-CD
Authoring Judge: Justice Cornelia A. Clark
Trial Court Judge: Judge E. Shayne Sexton

The dispositive issues in this appeal are: (1) whether the defendant’s extrajudicial statement was sufficiently corroborated for purposes of the corpus delicti rule to support his conviction of aggravated sexual battery; and (2) whether deviations from the jury selection procedures prescribed in Tennessee Rule of Criminal Procedure 24 are subject to harmless error review or require automatic reversal without a showing of prejudice. First, we hold that the corpus delicti rule does not apply because the defendant testified at trial and adopted his extrajudicial statement, although he denied one portion of it on cross-examination. Even assuming the corpus delicti rule applies, the trustworthiness of the defendant’s extrajudicial statement was sufficiently corroborated by his own testimony and by that of the prosecution witnesses. Second, we hold that deviations from prescribed jury selection procedures are non-constitutional errors subject to harmless error analysis. Such errors require reversal only if a defendant establishes either that the error “more probably than not affected the judgment or would result in prejudice to the judicial process.” Tenn. R. App. P. 36(b). We conclude that the substantial deviations from Rule 24 during the selection of a jury for the defendant’s trial resulted in prejudice to the judicial process, which entitles the defendant to a new trial. Accordingly, the judgment of the Court of Criminal Appeals is reversed; the defendant’s conviction is vacated; and this matter is remanded to the trial court for a new trial, consistent with this decision.

Union County Supreme Court 04/01/15
State of Tennessee v. Mechelle L. Montgomery
M2013-01149-SC-R11-CD
Authoring Judge: Justice Gary R. Wade
Trial Court Judge: Judge James G. Martin, III

The defendant, who was indicted for driving under the influence and violating the open container law, moved to suppress all evidence discovered during the search of her car, which included an open container of alcohol and a small amount of marijuana. The trial court granted the motion to suppress, holding that one of the officers involved had unreasonably prolonged the investigatory stop. The Court of Criminal Appeals affirmed. Because the officer had a reasonable basis for extending the stop by ten to fifteen minutes while awaiting a second officer and the duration of the detention did not exceed the proper parameters, we set aside the order of suppression and remand to the trial court for further proceedings.

Williamson County Supreme Court 03/27/15
Charles Haynes v. Formac Stables, Inc.
W2013-00535-SC-R11-CV
Authoring Judge: Justice Gary R. Wade
Trial Court Judge: Judge William B. Acree

The plaintiff asserted claims for retaliatory discharge pursuant to both the common law and the Tennessee Public Protection Act, alleging that the owner of the employer had engaged in illegal conduct and had terminated the plaintiff’s employment when he acted as a whistleblower by complaining of the conduct to the owner. The trial court dismissed the plaintiff’s claims because, according to his own allegations, he had not reported the illegal activity to anyone other than the person responsible for the activity. The Court of Appeals affirmed. We hold that an employee must report an employer’s wrongdoing to someone other than the wrongdoer to qualify as a whistleblower, which may require reporting to an outside entity when the wrongdoer is the manager, owner, or highest ranking officer within the company. The judgment of the Court of Appeals is affirmed.

Obion County Supreme Court 03/27/15
State of Tennessee v. Frederick Herron
W2012-01195-SC-R11-CD
Authoring Judge: Justice Cornelia A. Clark
Trial Court Judge: Judge Carolyn W. Blackett

The defendant was charged with and convicted of rape of a child, and he received a twentyfive-year sentence. The defendant appealed, raising seven issues. The Court of Criminal Appeals held that the trial court erred by(1) allowing the prosecution to introduce the child’s prior consistent statement, a recorded forensic interview, during its case-in-chief before the child’s credibility had been challenged; and (2) ruling that if the defendant chose to testify the prosecution would be permitted to ask him whether he had been previously arrested or convicted of an unnamed felony. Nevertheless, in a divided decision, two judges of the Court of Criminal Appeals concluded that these errors were neither individually nor cumulatively prejudicial. The dissenting judge opined that the second error alone was prejudicial and entitled the defendant to a new trial. We affirm the Court of Criminal Appeals’ conclusions that the evidence is sufficient to support the conviction and that the election is sufficiently specific and definite. We hold that the cumulative effect of the two conceded trial errors is prejudicial and entitles the defendant to a new trial. Because of the remand for a new trial, we do not address the defendant’s other allegations of evidentiary errors. Accordingly, the judgment of the Court of Criminal Appeals is reversed in part; the defendant’s conviction is vacated; and this matter is remanded to the trial court for a new trial, consistent with this decision.

Shelby County Supreme Court 03/26/15
William Watters, Jr. v. Nissan North America, Inc., et al
M2014-00539-SC-R3-WC
Authoring Judge: Senior Judge Don R. Ash
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Jeffrey F. Stewart

In this workers’ compensation action, the employee alleged that he sustained bilateral thoracic outlet syndrome, bilateral shoulder injuries and a herniated disc in his neck as a result of his work and that he was permanently and totally disabled by those injuries. His employer denied that the neck injury was work-related and denied that he was totally disabled. The trial court found that the neck injury was not compensable and awarded 80% permanent partial disability for the other injuries. On appeal, the employee contends that the evidence preponderates against the trial court’s finding concerning the neck injury, and the employer contends that the award was excessive. The appeal has been referred to the Special Workers’ Compensation Appeals Panel for a hearing and a report of findings of fact and conclusions of law pursuant to Tennessee Supreme Court Rule 51. We affirm the judgment.

Franklin County Supreme Court 03/24/15
State of Tennessee v. William Eugene Hall - CONCUR
M2012-00336-SC-DDT-DD
Authoring Judge: Chief Justice Sharon G. Lee
Trial Court Judge: Senior Judge Jon Kerry Blackwood

I concur fully with the Court’s opinion except for Section III(E), which reaffirms the proportionality review performed in Mr. Hall’s original direct appeal. Because I believe this Court used an improper method for analyzing the proportionality of Mr. Hall’s death sentence, I have conducted an independent proportionality review. Upon doing so, I concur with the Court’s conclusion that Mr. Hall’s death sentence is not disproportionate to the sentences imposed on other similar offenders who have committed similar crimes.

Humphreys County Supreme Court 03/20/15
State of Tennessee v. William Eugene Hall
M2012-00336-SC-DDT-DD
Authoring Judge: Justice Gary R. Wade
Trial Court Judge: Senior Judge Jon Kerry Blackwood

The defendant was convicted on two counts of felony murder in the perpetration of a first degree burglary, three counts of grand larceny, one count of petit larceny, and three counts of first degree burglary. The jury imposed a sentence of death for the murder of one victim and a life sentence for the murder of the second victim. The trial court ordered an aggregate sentence of eighty years for the remaining crimes, to be served consecutively to the life sentence. The direct appeal was decided adversely to the defendant. On post-conviction review, this Court granted the defendant a delayed appeal and remanded to the trial court based upon the lack of meaningful representation during the original direct appeal. The trial court denied relief, and the Court of Criminal Appeals affirmed. We affirm the judgment of the Court of Criminal Appeals.

Humphreys County Supreme Court 03/20/15
Calvin Eugene Bryant v. State of Tennessee - CONCUR IN PART AND CONCUR IN RESULT
M2012-01560-SC-R11-PC
Authoring Judge: Justice Cornelia A. Clark
Trial Court Judge: Judge Steve R. Dozier

I concur with the lead opinion’s conclusion that trial counsel’s failure to request an instruction on facilitation did not amount to deficient performance. Because the petitioner has failed to establish deficient performance, I also agree with the lead opinion’s conclusion that the petitioner is not entitled to relief on his claim of ineffective assistance of counsel. Having so concluded, I decline to join Section B of the lead opinion, which addresses the prejudice prong of the petitioner’s ineffective assistance of counsel claim. I reserve decision on the issue of the proper prejudice analysis for an appeal in which it is squarely presented. Goad v. State, 938 S.W.2d 363, 370 (Tenn. 1996) (recognizing that a court need not address both prongs of a petitioner’s ineffective assistance of counsel claim when the court concludes that the petitioner has failed to establish either deficient performance or prejudice).

Davidson County Supreme Court 03/13/15
Calvin Eugene Bryant v. State of Tennessee - CONCUR IN PART AND DISSENT IN PART
M2012-01560-SC-R11-PC
Authoring Judge: Justice Gary R. Wade
Trial Court Judge: Judge Steve Dozier

I concur with the majority that a conviction on a greater offense does not preclude a claim of ineffective assistance of counsel for the failure to request jury instructions on lesser included offenses. Although a small number of recent opinions by the Court of Criminal Appeals have held otherwise, most panels have endorsed the traditional view that the trial court has the obligation to provide instructions on the charged offense and all lesser included offenses warranted by the proof at trial, and that defense counsel, absent a reasonably based strategy, has the duty to seek instructions on all lesser included offenses. In contrast to the majority, I believe that trial counsel in this instance provided constitutionally inadequate representation by failing to request an instruction on facilitation as a lesser included offense of the sale of ecstasy within a school zone. I must, therefore, respectfully dissent to the extent that I would grant a new trial.

Davidson County Supreme Court 03/13/15
Calvin Eugene Bryant v. State of Tennessee
M2012-01560-SC-R11-PC
Authoring Judge: Chief Justice Sharon G. Lee
Trial Court Judge: Judge Steve R. Dozier

In this post-conviction appeal, we address two issues: 1) whether trial counsel provided ineffective representation by failing to request a jury instruction on facilitation as a lesser-included offense; and 2) whether a trial counsel‟s failure to request a jury instruction on a lesser-included offense is never prejudicial to a defendant convicted of a greater offense. The defendant was charged with selling illegal drugs to a police informant. The defendant‟s trial counsel argued that he was entrapped by the informant. A jury instruction on facilitation as a lesser-included offense was neither requested by the defendant‟s trial counsel nor given by the trial court. The defendant was convicted of selling illegal drugs. The Court of Criminal Appeals affirmed his convictions. The defendant filed a petition for post-conviction relief, alleging that his trial counsel provided ineffective representation by not requesting a jury instruction on facilitation of the sale of a controlled substance. The post-conviction court denied relief. The Court of Criminal Appeals affirmed, holding that 1) trial counsel was not deficient in failing to request a jury instruction on facilitation; and 2) when convicted of a greater charge, a defendant can never show that the absence of a jury instruction on a lesser-included offense was prejudicial to the defendant. We hold that the evidence in this case failed to warrant a jury instruction on facilitation. Accordingly, trial counsel‟s failure to request a facilitation instruction was not deficient performance. Further, we hold that under certain facts and circumstances, a trial counsel‟s failure to request a jury instruction on a lesser-included offense can be prejudicial to a defendant and entitle him or her to post-conviction relief based on ineffective assistance of counsel. Our decision in State v. Davis, 266 S.W.3d 896, 910 (Tenn. 2008), approving sequential jury instructions, doesnot obviate an attorney's responsibility to request lesser-included offense instructions when warranted by the proof. We affirm the judgment of the Court of Criminal Appeals, as modified.
 

1 We heard oral argument on this case on May 29, 2014, at the American Legion Auxiliary Volunteer GirlsState held at Lipscomb University in Nashville, Tennessee, as a part of the Court‟s S.C.A.L.E.S. (Supreme Court Advancing Legal Education for Students) project.

Davidson County Supreme Court 03/13/15
Stephen Michael West, et al v. Derrick D. Schofield, et al - Concurring in the judgment only
M2014-00320-SC-R11-CV
Authoring Judge: Justice Gary R. Wade
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Claudia C. Bonnyman

I concur in the conclusion reached by my colleagues that the identities of the John Doe defendants are not discoverable under Tennessee Rule of Civil Procedure 26.02(1). In my view,however, the majority opinion contains dicta that unnecessarily addresses several issues with far-reaching implications in death penalty litigation. Therefore, I must respectfully concur in the result only.

Davidson County Supreme Court 03/10/15
Stephen Michael West, et al v. Derrick D. Schofield, et al
M2014-00320-SC-R11-CV
Authoring Judge: Justice Jeffrey S. Bivins
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Claudia C. Bonnyman

We granted the State of Tennessee permission to appeal from the Court of Appeals’ decision on interlocutory appeal in which the intermediate appellate court affirmed the trial court’s order compelling discovery in this declaratory judgment action. The Plaintiffs are seeking a declaration that the lethal injection protocol in place for the execution of convicted criminal defendants sentenced to death is unconstitutional. In conjunction with pursuing their claim, the Plaintiffs sought to discover the identity of persons involved in facilitating and carrying out executions. Over the State’s objection, the trial court ordered the State to provide these identities to the Plaintiffs, and the Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court’s order. Upon due consideration, we reverse and remand this matter for further proceedings consistent with this Opinion and in compliance with the timelines set forth in the judgment order filed contemporaneously with this Opinion.

Davidson County Supreme Court 03/10/15
State of Tennessee v. Charles D. Sprunger
E2011-02573-SC-R11-CV
Authoring Judge: Justice Holly Kirby
Trial Court Judge: Judge Ronald Thurman

This appeal challenges the civil forfeiture of the appellant’s house after he was convicted of possessing child pornography on his home computer. We hold that, in forfeiture proceedings, the seizing authority is required to present affirmative proof that it complied with both the procedural and the substantive provisions of the applicable forfeiture statutes. In accord with prior decisions of this Court, we also hold that both the procedural and the substantive provisions of the forfeiture statutes must be strictly construed. The State in this case failed to show that it complied with the procedural requirements in the forfeiture
statutes. Therefore, we vacate the forfeiture.

Cumberland County Supreme Court 03/09/15
State of Tennessee v. Jacqueline Crank
E2012-01189-SC-R11-CD
Authoring Judge: Justice Gary R. Wade
Trial Court Judge: Judge E. Eugene Eblen

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