The Tennessee Supreme Court has three cases set for its June 1, 2023, docket. The first two cases will be heard in Nashville beginning at 1 p.m. CDT. The final case will be submitted on briefs. The cases will be livestreamed to the TNCourts YouTube page at: youtube.com/@TNCourts. The details of the cases are as follows:
- Peggy Mathes et al. v. 99 Hermitage, LLC – This case involves a dispute regarding a piece of real property near downtown Nashville. In July 1986, Raymond Whiteaker executed an installment deed conveying real property to Brake Tech, Auto Brake Centers, Inc. (“Brake-Tech”), with a promissory note signed by Ora Eads and his wife, Eleanor Eads. Brake-Tech was dissolved in 1988 before the note was satisfied. In December 1990, Mr. Whiteaker made a notation on the note indicating that it had been paid in full. The installment deed, however, was not recorded when it was executed or after the note was satisfied. Nevertheless, Mr. Eads treated the property as his own and held it out to the public as such. On September 4, 2009, a foreign judgment was enrolled against Mr. Whiteaker in Davidson County and recorded on September 11, 2009. Mr. Whiteaker died in 2014, and his estate administrator testified there was no record of the property in the estate. The holder of the judgment lien did not commence an action to enforce the lien and sell the property until June 17, 2016. The installment deed to Brake-Tech was recorded on November 16, 2016. Mr. and Mrs. Eads filed the instant action on January 18, 2017, anticipating that 99 Hermitage, LLC was going to bid on the property at a sheriff’s sale scheduled for the following day, and sought a determination that 99 Hermitage had no right or claim to the property. 99 Hermitage purchased the property on January 19, 2017, at the sheriff’s sale. 99 Hermitage then asserted claims for trespass and ejectment. Relevant here, the Eadses amended their complaint to assert that Mr. Eads had adversely possessed the property for over twenty years such that a grant of the property should be presumed in his favor under the common law. Mr. and Mrs. Eads both passed away prior to the trial court entering its final order, and their estates and heirs have been substituted. The trial court ruled in favor of 99 Hermitage, rejecting Mr. Eads’ adverse possession claims because it found that Mr. Whiteaker acquiesced in, and permitted, Mr. Eads’ possession of the property. The Court of Appeals reversed, concluding that Mr. Eads acquired title to the property by common law adverse possession. The Supreme Court granted the ensuing application for permission to appeal from 99 Hermitage.
- Thomas Edward Clardy v. State of Tennessee – Following a 2005 shooting, a Davidson County jury convicted Thomas Edward Clardy of one count of first-degree premeditated murder, two counts of attempted first-degree premeditated murder, and three counts of reckless endangerment. Mr. Clardy’s convictions and sentences were affirmed on direct appeal. He then sought post-conviction relief, raising several grounds of ineffective assistance of counsel and a stand-alone claim of actual innocence. Relevant here, the claim of actual innocence was based on post-trial ballistics testing that revealed the .40 caliber cartridge casing found at the crime scene matched a weapon used in a subsequent shooting by Dantwan Collier and two 9mm cartridge casings matched a weapon used in a subsequent shooting by Thomas Collier. The post-conviction court found that the evidence, “while certainly exculpatory, d[id] not prove [Mr. Clardy’s] innocence by clear and convincing evidence.” After the post-conviction proceedings, a “pro bono” investigator spoke with Dantwan Collier in December 2019 and obtained an affidavit in which Mr. Collier attested that he did not know Mr. Clardy, had never met him, and had never received any property from him. Mr. Clardy relied on this affidavit to supplement the post-conviction court’s findings and seek coram nobis relief, asserting the affidavit was proof of actual innocence. He acknowledged that he did not file the petition within the applicable statute of limitations but said he was entitled to an equitable tolling. The coram nobis court denied the petition as untimely because the affidavit did “not amount to ‘new evidence of actual innocence’ discovered after the expiration of the limitations period.” The Court of Criminal Appeals reversed, concluding that equitable tolling applied. The Supreme Court granted the State’s ensuing application for permission to appeal.
- Loring E. Justice v. Board of Professional Responsibility – This attorney-discipline case originated after the Board of Professional Responsibility (“Board”) received a letter from Judge Don R. Ash alleging numerous instances of ethical misconduct based on certain statements made by Loring E. Justice about Judge Ash during a child-custody case involving Mr. Justice’s son. Following an investigation, the Board filed a petition for discipline against Mr. Justice. The hearing panel found that Mr. Justice violated Tennessee Rules of Professional Conduct 3.5(e) (Impartiality and Decorum of the Tribunal), 8.2(a)(1) (Judicial and Legal Officials), 8.4(a) (Misconduct), and 8.4(d) (Misconduct). The panel imposed a three-year suspension “from the date, if any, when [Mr. Justice] is reinstated to the practice of law” involving a prior, unrelated disciplinary proceeding in which Mr. Justice was disbarred. The hearing panel also ordered Mr. Justice to attend six additional hours of ethics CLE for six consecutive years after his reinstatement from his three-year suspension. Mr. Justice filed a petition for review in the trial court pursuant to Tenn. Sup. Ct. R. 9, section 33.1(b). The Board did not file a separate petition for review. On July 15, 2022, the trial court entered its judgment and denied Mr. Justice relief on the issues he raised. Additionally, on its own motion, the trial court determined that the hearing panel erred in applying the ABA Standards calling for suspension and should have applied the ABA Standards calling for disbarment. Mr. Justice appealed to this Court pursuant to Tenn. Sup. Ct. R. 9, section 33.1(d).
Media members planning to attend oral arguments should review Supreme Court Rule 30 and file any required requests.