Court of Appeals To Livestream Remote Hearings

June 2, 2020

The Tennessee Court of Appeals will livestream remote oral arguments on June 3 - 4 through the TNCourts.gov YouTube page. The intermediate appellate court began hearing cases using video conferencing in early May and posted audio from those oral arguments on the tncourts.gov website. This is the first time proceedings of the Court of Appeals will be livestreamed. The court will hear oral arguments in four cases on both June 3 and June 4.

May Docket Heard Via Video Conference

In May, the Court of Appeals heard oral arguments for several cases via video conference.  Chief Judge D. Michael Swiney, Judge Frank G. Clement Jr., Judge J. Steven Stafford, Judge Andy D. Bennett, Judge Richard H. Dinkins, and Judge W. Neal McBrayer participated in the remote oral arguments.

“I thought from the Court’s standpoint that it worked pretty well,” Chief Judge Swiney said. “I was pleasantly surprised that it went as smoothly as it did. I think the lawyers had the opportunity to have their say and to receive questions from us, and that’s the most important aspect of oral argument in my view; it gives the lawyers the opportunity to respond to any questions the judges have, something they can’t do if a case is just submitted on brief.”

Attorney Sarah Richter Perky, a partner at Thompson Burton PLLC, participated in a Court of Appeals video oral argument on May 5.

“The substantive preparation for oral argument was the same for me as for any other case,” she said. If anything, she said she spent extra time preparing for the technical aspects of her presentation. That included doing a trial run with her camera to make sure the lighting in her office was adequate and setting up a standing desk to replicate the experience of speaking at a podium.

The experience felt “slightly more informal than in-person proceedings, but there was no real difference, I didn’t feel, in my ability to advocate for clients,” she said.

Like Perky, attorney B. Nathan Hunt, of the firm Patton and Pittman, had participated in video hearings at the trial court level in recent weeks before arguing in front of the Court of Appeals on May 5. Overall, Hunt called the remote arguing experience “excellent,” so much so that he told his clients that he hoped the Court would “consider using this type of technology in the future for attorneys whose practices are not based in Nashville and who may want to provide their clients with the WebEx option to avoid the time and expense of travelling to Nashville for the oral argument, which can be somewhat costly.”

June Docket

Judge Clement will preside over the June docket for the Court of Appeals – Middle Section and will be joined by Judge Bennett,  Judge Dinkins, and Judge McBrayer. On Wednesday June 3, the Court of Appeals will hear four cases, starting at 9 a.m., 10 a.m., 2 p.m. and 3 p.m.

  • Donna Cooper, et al v. Dr. Mason Wesley Mandy, et al. – This case involves intentional misrepresentation in a medical setting and the applicability of the Tennessee Healthcare Liability Act. It is from Williamson County.
  • James Justice v. Paul Gaiter et al. – This case reviews a jury verdict related to comparative fault in a car accident. It originated in Williamson County.
  • Jeffrey Clay Davis v. Vanderbilt University Medical Center – This Davidson County case focuses on a retaliatory discharge claim.
  • Sun, Air, Water & Land, Inc. v. Harold M. “Jack” Reynolds – This Sequatchie County case involves the enforceability of a promissory note.

On Thursday, June 4, the Court of Appeals will hear the four cases at 9 a.m., 11 a.m., 1 p.m., and 3 p.m.

  • Generation 4 Recycling Group, LLC v. Triumph Aerostructures, LLC – Vought Aircraft Division – This case reviews a motion for summary judgment related to a confidentiality clause in a request for proposal for a public contract. It originated in Davidson County.
  • Mindy Donovan v. Joshua R. Hastings – This Davidson County case involves rewarding attorney fees in a breach of contract claim during a home renovation.
  • Noah L. a minor child v. Sumner County Board of Education – This is a personal injury case involving a child who was hurt at school in Sumner County.
  • In Re Estate of Donald Cowan – This Davidson County case focuses on the language of a quitclaim deed.

The Court of Appeals-Eastern Section is expected to hear remote oral arguments the week of June 8 and the Court of Appeals-Western Section is planning remote oral arguments toward the end of the month.

Across the state, in-person proceedings were limited on March 13 by a Supreme Court Order and, while restrictions are lifting, there is still a preference for video conference when possible. The Tennessee Supreme Court heard its April and May oral arguments via video conference. Judge Swiney said he certainly saw a role for remote video technology in the Court of Appeals’ future, even as things return to normal.

“It’s nice to know now that if for some reason we can’t proceed with oral arguments in person we have that option of doing video,” he said. “Video has a lot to offer, the convenience of it, the savings to clients, particularly if the lawyers are not located where the court is. It saves the lawyers time and their clients money to do it by video.”

While he has been pleased with the court’s use of technology, Judge Swiney said he and most judges he knows continue to “believe that in-person oral arguments are probably more effective all the way around.” They offer a level of interpersonal interaction and observation that is difficult to achieve by other means, Judge Swiney said.