APPELLATE COURT OPINIONS

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Emily Ruth Hughes v. Lucas Hughes

E2023-00952-COA-R3-CV

In this post-divorce custody and contempt action, the trial court held the defendant father in criminal contempt for violating the parties’ permanent parenting plan. The trial court sentenced the father to serve 186 consecutive days in jail. The trial court also limited the father’s parenting time with the parties’ minor children and awarded the mother her attorney’s fees incurred in prosecuting the action. The father timely appealed to this Court, arguing that he lacked adequate notice of the criminal contempt allegations and that the trial court imposed an excessive sentence. The father also argues that the trial court erred in limiting his parenting time under Tennessee Code Annotated section 36-6-406. The issues related to inadequate notice are waived because the father raises those issues for the first time on appeal. Father’s argument regarding his parenting time is waived for the same reason. We also conclude that the trial court’s sentence for the father’s criminal contempt is appropriate under the circumstances and does not amount to an abuse of discretion. Finally, we award the mother her costs and expenses, including reasonable attorney’s fees, incurred in defending this appeal.

Authoring Judge: Judge Kristi M. Davis
Originating Judge:Judge Suzanne Cook
Carter County Court of Appeals 04/19/24
State of Tennessee v. Eugene Smith

M2023-00367-CCA-R3-CD

Eugene Smith, Defendant, entered best interest pleas to two counts of attempted aggravated sexual battery with sentencing left open to the trial court. Following a sentencing hearing, the trial court sentenced Defendant to an effective sentence of twelve years in confinement. On appeal, Defendant argues the trial court erred in imposing the maximum sentence of six years on each count, imposing consecutive sentences, and denying alternative sentencing. After reviewing the record and applicable law, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Authoring Judge: Judge Matthew J. Wilson
Originating Judge:Judge William R. Goodman, III
Montgomery County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/19/24
State of Tennessee, ex rel., Misty D. Magee v. Andy W. Franks

W2024-00164-COA-R3-JV

The notice of appeal in this case was not timely filed. Therefore, this Court lacks jurisdiction to consider this appeal.

Authoring Judge: Per Curiam
Originating Judge:Judge Daniel L. Smith
Hardin County Court of Appeals 04/19/24
State of Tennessee, ex rel., Judy C. Franks v. Andy Franks

W2024-00167-COA-R3-CV

The notice of appeal in this case was not timely filed. Therefore, this Court lacks jurisdiction to consider this appeal.

Authoring Judge: Per Curiam
Originating Judge:Judge Daniel L. Smith
Hardin County Court of Appeals 04/19/24
State of Tennessee v. Michael Taylor

W2023-00115-CCA-R3-CD

A Shelby County Grand Jury indicted the Defendant, Michael Taylor, for first degree
premeditated murder, unlawful possession of a weapon, and violation of an order of
protection. The Defendant, at his jury trial, was convicted of the lesser included offense of
second degree murder as well as the charged offenses of unlawful possession of a weapon
and violation of an order of protection. Following a sentencing hearing, the trial court
imposed an effective twenty-five year sentence. On appeal, the Defendant argues the trial
court provided an incomplete and misleading jury instruction on self-defense that
prevented him from receiving a fair trial. Because the self-defense instruction was error
and this error was not harmless beyond a reasonable doubt given the particular facts of this
case, we reverse the Defendant’s convictions and remand this case to the trial court for a
new trial on all counts.

Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge Camille R. McMullen
Originating Judge:Judge Paula L. Skahan
Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/19/24
In Re William C.

M2023-00646-COA-R3-PT

A father was found to have committed severe child abuse in a dependency and neglect case. The Department of Children’s Services subsequently filed a petition to terminate the father’s parental rights based on the previous finding of severe child abuse. Father asserts that the trial court erred in failing to continue the termination proceedings in his absence, in finding a ground for termination of his parental rights, and in determining that termination was in the child’s best interest. Discerning no error, we affirm the trial court’s decision.

Authoring Judge: Judge Andy D. Bennett
Originating Judge:Judge James Reed Brown
Pickett County Court of Appeals 04/18/24
Parents' Choice Tennessee et al. v. Jason Golden, in his Official Capacity as Superintendent of Williamson County Schools et al.

M2022-01719-COA-R3-CV

Parents, on behalf of their children who are public school students, and an education-focused parents’ rights organization brought suit against the Williamson County Board of Education, arguing that the Board’s adoption and implementation of a particular curriculum violates Tennessee law. The Plaintiffs argue the curriculum violates a state law restricting the use of Common Core textbooks and instructional materials in public schools and violates another state law that bars the teaching of certain prohibited concepts in public schools. The School Board moved to dismiss. The trial court granted the motion on two justiciability grounds. The trial court concluded that the parents and the parents’ rights organization lacked standing to maintain either claim. The trial court also concluded that the Plaintiffs were required to exhaust administrative remedies with regard to their prohibited concepts claim and had not done so. The Plaintiffs appealed. With the exception of a family that left the county public school system and has not expressed in their pleadings an intent to return, we conclude that trial court erred in finding the Plaintiffs lacked standing. We affirm the trial court’s dismissal of the prohibited concepts claim for failure to exhaust administrative remedies. We reverse, however, the dismissal of the Plaintiffs’ Common Core claim and remand for further proceedings.

Authoring Judge: Judge Jeffrey Usman
Originating Judge:Judge Michael Binkley
Williamson County Court of Appeals 04/18/24
State of Tennessee v. Benjamin Cloe Byrer

W2023-00483-CCA-R3-CD

The Defendant, Benjamin Cloe Byrer, was convicted by a Gibson County Circuit Court jury of second degree murder, a Class A felony. See T.C.A. § 39-13-210 (2018). The Defendant was sentenced to nineteen years’ incarceration. On appeal, he contends that the evidence is insufficient to support his conviction. We affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Authoring Judge: Judge Robert H. Montgomery, Jr.
Originating Judge:Judge Don R. Ash
Gibson County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/18/24
State of Tennessee v. Malik DeWayne Hardin

E2023-00456-CCA-R3-CD

The Defendant, Malik DeWayne Hardin, appeals the denial of his motion for resentencing
for his guilty-pleaded conviction of possession with the intent to sell less than .5 grams of
cocaine in a drug free school zone, which resulted in a sentence of twelve years at 100%
as a Range II offender. The Defendant asserts that the trial court issued a fundamentally
illegal ruling and palpably abused its discretion by comparing the sentence the Defendant
received pursuant to his negotiated plea agreement to the sentence he faced if convicted of
the greater charged offense and concluding that he would not receive a lesser sentence
under the 2022 amendment to the Drug-Free School Zone Act. The Defendant therefore
requests that this court, in the interest of justice, convert his improperly filed Rule 3 appeal
into a common law writ of certiorari and reverse the ruling of the trial court. Because the
Defendant has not shown that his case warrants review pursuant to a writ of certiorari, we
dismiss the appeal.

Authoring Judge: Judge John W. Campbell, Sr.
Originating Judge:Judge Steven Wayne Sword
Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/17/24
Daniela Valderrama v. Robyn H. Hurvitz

E2024-00496-COA-T10B-CV

Petitioner, Daniela Valderrama, filed an accelerated interlocutory appeal as of right pursuant to Tennessee Supreme Court Rule 10B from the trial court’s denial of a motion for recusal. Ms. Valderrama’s petition for recusal appeal fails to comply with the requirements of Rule 10B, section 2.03. Due to Ms. Valderrama’s failure to comply with Rule 10B, the appeal is dismissed.

Authoring Judge: Judge Kristi M. Davis
Originating Judge:Judge J. Michael Sharp
Monroe County Court of Appeals 04/17/24
Angela Louine Niemeyer v. Glenn Paul Niemeyer

E2022-01690-COA-R3-CV

This is a divorce action involving, inter alia, the classification of property, equitable valuation and division of marital property, and support for an alleged disabled adult child beyond the age of 21. After our exhaustive review, we find that the preponderance of the evidence supports the trial court’s determinations in this matter. Therefore, we affirm the trial court’s judgment in all respect.

Authoring Judge: Judge John McClarty
Originating Judge:Judge John Bennett
Hamilton County Court of Appeals 04/17/24
Chauncey Hopkins v. United Parcel Service, Inc.

W2023-00318-COA-R3-CV

Plaintiff appeals the trial court’s decision to exclude his experts and to grant summary judgment to the defendant. Because plaintiff has appealed a non-final judgment and the record on appeal is incomplete, we dismiss this appeal.

Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge J. Steven Stafford
Originating Judge:Judge Mary L. Wagner
Shelby County Court of Appeals 04/17/24
Kerry Wright v. John Doe, et al.

W2023-00084-COA-R3-Cv

Plaintiff alleged that actions of defendant tow truck driver led to John Doe driving into plaintiff’s vehicle and causing injury. Towing company and driver moved for summary judgment based on the lack of evidence as to the cause of John Doe’s actions. The trial court agreed, granting summary judgment for lack of evidence that towing company or driver was the cause in fact of plaintiff’s injury. Discerning no error, we affirm.

Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge J. Steven Stafford
Originating Judge:Judge Mary L. Wagner
Shelby County Court of Appeals 04/17/24
Robin Hood Condo Association v. William Wellman

M2023-01519-COA-R3-CV

A condominium owner appeals from a final judgment awarding past due fees and assessments to a homeowners association. Because the owner did not file his notice of appeal within thirty days after entry of the judgment as required by Tennessee Rule of Appellate Procedure 4(a), we dismiss the appeal.

Authoring Judge: PER CURIAM
Originating Judge:Judge Joseph P. Binkley, Jr.
Davidson County Court of Appeals 04/17/24
Gabriel Calleja v. Whitney Bradfield

E2022-01074-COA-R3-JV

A mother sought to move to another state with her minor child. The child’s father opposed the move and petitioned to be named the child’s primary residential parent. The mother responded with a counter-petition seeking approval of the move and a modified parenting plan. Using the best-interest factors applicable to child custody disputes, the court granted the mother permission to relocate and modified the parties’ parenting time accordingly. On appeal, the father argues the parental relocation statute applied and, regardless of which best-interest factors were used, the evidence preponderates against the court’s best-interest finding. We affirm.

Authoring Judge: Judge W. Neal McBrayer
Originating Judge:Judge Timothy E. Irwin
Knox County Court of Appeals 04/17/24
CHSPSC, LLC v. The California Credits Group, LLC

M2023-00040-COA-R3-CV

A tax group performed tax credit services on a contingency fee basis for a corporation that owned several hospitals in California. Four and half years after the corporation completed a transaction referred to as a “spinoff,” the tax group informed the corporation that the spinoff triggered a reorganization provision of the parties’ contract that entitled the tax group to a fee for unused tax credits related to one of the hospitals involved in the spinoff. The corporation filed suit requesting a declaratory judgment that no fee was owed because the spinoff did not trigger the contract’s reorganization provision. After conducting discovery, the parties filed cross motions for summary judgment. The trial court denied the tax group’s motion and granted summary judgment to the corporation after concluding that the parties’ conduct prior to the dispute showed that they intended the term “reorganization” to have a tax-based meaning that corresponded to the Internal Revenue Code’s definition of the term and that the spinoff did not constitute a reorganization under that definition. Discerning no error, we affirm the trial court’s judgment.

Authoring Judge: Judge Andy D. Bennett
Originating Judge:Chancellor Michael Binkley
Williamson County Court of Appeals 04/16/24
Turner Construction Company v. AGCS Marine Insurance Company d/b/a Allianz Global Corporate & Specialty

M2023-01178-COA-R3-CV

The cabinets delivered from a Turkish company for a Tennessee construction project did not meet United States formaldehyde standards and could not be used as they were. The construction management company filed an insurance claim. The insurance company denied the claim and the construction management company sued. The trial court found for the construction management company and the insurance company appealed. We have determined that the trial court’s order was not final and, therefore, dismiss the appeal and remand the matter for further consideration.

Authoring Judge: Judge Andy D. Bennett
Originating Judge:Chancellor Anne C. Martin
Davidson County Court of Appeals 04/16/24
In Re Rori H.

E2023-00212-COA-R3-PT

In this termination of parental rights case, Brian T. and Samantha T., the maternal grandparents of Rori H., appeal the trial court’s ruling that termination of the parental rights of Rori’s father, Brennan H., is not in the child’s best interests. We conclude that the trial court erred in finding as grounds for termination that the father abandoned the child by failing to pay support in the four months preceding the petition. Having found no grounds for termination, we do not reach a best interests determination. Ultimately, we affirm the trial court’s denial of the petition for termination. We remand the case for further proceedings pursuant to Tennessee Code Annotated section 36-1-117(b)(4). Finally, we conclude that the father is not entitled to an award of attorney’s fees incurred on appeal.

Authoring Judge: Judge Kristi M. Davis
Originating Judge:Judge Michael Dumitru
Court of Appeals 04/16/24
Carlos Stokes v. State of Tennessee

W2023-00421-CCA-R3-ECN

The Petitioner, Carlos Stokes, appeals the Shelby County Criminal Court’s summary dismissal of his petition for a writ of error coram nobis from his convictions for first degree murder, conspiracy to commit first degree murder, reckless endangerment, two counts of attempted first degree murder, and two counts of employing a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony, for which he received a sentence of life imprisonment plus fifty-four years. He contends that he is entitled to equitable tolling of the statute of limitations and requests that this court appoint a special judge to preside over this case on remand. We conclude that the Petitioner is entitled to due process tolling of the statute of limitations. As a result, the judgment of the coram nobis court is reversed, and the case is remanded to the court for an evidentiary hearing on the merits of the petition. We decline to appoint a special judge for subsequent proceedings.

Authoring Judge: Judge Robert H. Montgomery, Jr.
Originating Judge:Judge Carlyn Addison
Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/16/24
In Re: Matthew D.

E2023-00880-COA-R3-PT

This is an appeal of a termination of a mother’s parental rights to her son. Ashley D.
(“Petitioner”), who has maintained custody of Matthew D. (“the Child”) since he was four
months old, sought termination of the parental rights of Natalie D. (“Mother”).1 The
Circuit Court for Roane County (“the Trial Court”) found that clear and convincing
evidence established the statutory ground of abandonment by failure to support and that it
was in the best interest of the Child that Mother’s parental rights be terminated. Mother
appeals. We affirm the Trial Court’s judgment.

Authoring Judge: Chief Judge D. Michael Swiney
Originating Judge:Judge Michael S. Pemberton
Roane County Court of Appeals 04/16/24
John Schmeeckle v. Hamilton County Tennessee Et Al.

E2024-00309-COA-T10B-CV

This is the petitioner’s second petition to recuse based on the same allegations. Therefore,
we affirm the trial court’s dismissal.

Authoring Judge: Judge Andy D. Bennett
Originating Judge:Chancellor Pamela A. Fleenor
Court of Appeals 04/16/24
In Re Dakota V.

M2024-00530-COA-T10B-CV

This appeal arises out of proceedings in which a trial court denied a motion to recuse. The parents of the minor child at issue have attempted to appeal pursuant to Rule 10B of the Rules of the Supreme Court of the State of Tennessee. Because the parents did not timely file a petition for recusal appeal, we dismiss the appeal.

Authoring Judge: Judge Arnold B. Goldin
Originating Judge:Judge Douglas K. Chapman
Maury County Court of Appeals 04/15/24
Larry B. Sexton v. State of Tennessee

M2023-00320-CCA-R3-PC

Petitioner, Larry B. Sexton, appeals as of right from the Lawrence County Circuit Court’s denial of his petition for post-conviction relief, wherein he challenged his conviction for aggravated statutory rape, for which he received a sentence of twelve years’ incarceration. On appeal, Petitioner contends that, during trial, his right to due process of law was violated when the trial court permitted the State to reopen proof following his motion for judgment of acquittal. Additionally, Petitioner asserts that he was denied the effective assistance of counsel based upon trial counsel’s failure to: (1) communicate the State’s plea offer to him; (2) request a trial continuance following the issuance of an amended indictment; (3) prepare a mistake of fact defense and interview potential witnesses to support this defense; (4) request a jury instruction on mistake of fact; (5) argue at sentencing and on direct appeal that NCIC entries are not “reliable hearsay” for purposes of sentencing; (6) object during sentencing when the trial court failed to comply with Tennessee Code Annotated section 40-35-106(b)(5) and raise the issue on appeal; and (7) adequately argue during trial and on appeal the issue of the reopening of proof. Following a thorough review, we affirm.

Authoring Judge: Judge Robert L. Holloway, Jr.
Originating Judge:Chancellor Christopher V. Sockwell
Lawrence County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/15/24
Alan C. Cartwright v. Thomason Hendrix, P.C., et al.

W2022-01627-COA-R3-CV

Appellants, lawyers and their law firms, appeal the trial court’s denial of their petition to dismiss this lawsuit under the Tennessee Public Protection Act. On appeal, we conclude that the trial court erred in concluding that Appellants failed to establish that this claim relates to the protected right to petition. As such, we reverse the judgment of the trial court and remand for further proceedings.

Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge J. Steven Stafford
Originating Judge:Senior Judge Robert E. Lee Davies
Shelby County Court of Appeals 04/15/24
Alice Cartwright Garner, et al. v. Thomason, Hendrix, Harvey, Johnson & Mitchell, PLLC, et al.

W2022-01636-COA-R3-CV

In this case, the plaintiffs sued the former attorneys of her opponent in a multitude of unsuccessful actions involving family trusts. In their complaint, the plaintiffs argued that they were damaged by the tortious conduct of the attorneys under the tort of another doctrine. The defendant-attorneys filed a petition to dismiss under the Tennessee Public Protection Act. The trial court denied the motion to dismiss on the basis that the act was inapplicable. We reverse and remand for further proceedings.

Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge J. Steven Stafford
Originating Judge:Senior Judge Robert E. Lee Davies
Shelby County Court of Appeals 04/15/24