Justia Tennessee Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the court of appeals reversing the judgment of the chancery court dismissing this complaint against a Texas company for lack of personal jurisdiction, holding that the exercise of specific personal jurisdiction was constitutionally permissible.The Texas company contracted with a Tennessee civil engineering company for services related to the potential construction of a railcar repair facility in Texas. When the Texas company failed to pay in full, the Tennessee company filed a breach of contract action in Tennessee. The chancery court dismissed the complaint, concluding that the Texas company lacked the minimum contacts necessary for the exercise of personal jurisdiction and that requiring the Texas company to litigate in Tennessee would be unreasonable and unfair. The court of appeals reversed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the Tennessee company established a prima facie case for the valid exercise of personal jurisdiction over the Texas company; and (2) the exercise of jurisdiction was fair and reasonable. View "Crouch Railway Consulting, LLC v. LS Energy Fabrication, LLC" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the Court of Criminal Appeals to remand this case and reinstated the post-conviction court's denial of Petitioner's petition for post-conviction relief, holding that the Court of Criminal Appeals was without authority under the Post-Conviction Procedure Act to remand this case for consideration of an issue that was not raised by either party.Petitioner pled guilty to attempted first-degree murder and especially aggravated robbery. Petitioner was sentenced to seventeen years' imprisonment to be served concurrently with a previously imposed federal sentence and consecutive to a state sentence. Petitioner later filed a petition for post-conviction relief. The post-conviction court denied the petition. The Court of Criminal Appeals affirmed the denial of the petition but remanded the case for an evidentiary hearing to consider whether Petitioner was advised of the consequences of entering a guilty plea based upon the agreement that his state sentence be served concurrently with his prior federal sentence. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that because Petitioner did not raise the concurrent sentencing issue in his post-conviction petition, during his hearing, or on appeal, the issue was waived. View "Holland v. State" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgments of the trial court and the court of appeals denying reformation of a quitclaim deed, holding that equitable reformation was not available when reformation would benefit parties with constructive notice of a title defect but harm the rights of creditors with recorded judgment liens.A husband and wife quitclaimed parcels of real property. The wife, who owned the property with her husband as tenants by the entirety, was omitted as grantor on one of the quitclaim deeds. Later, two banks obtained judgments against the husband and wife. When the property was sold, the purchasers discovered that the property was subject to the wife's retained ownership interest and the banks' recorded judgment liens. The wife signed a quitclaim deed of correction. The purchasers then filed a declaratory judgment action asking to the trial court to hold, based on mutual mistake, that the corrected quitclaim deed reformed the original quitclaim deed. The court denied reformation. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that because reforming the quitclaim deed would deprive the banks of their recorded judgment liens and benefit the purchasers and their lender, who acquired the property with constructive notice of the banks' recorded judgment liens and the wife's remaining interest in the property, the purchasers were not entitled to reformation. View "Trent v. Mountain Commerce Bank" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court remanded this matter to the trial court for a new post-conviction hearing before different judge, holding that the post-conviction judge should have recused himself even though Petitioner failed to file a motion for recusal because his impartiality might reasonably be questioned.After a second trial, Petitioner was convicted of first-degree premeditated murder. Petitioner timely filed a petition for post-conviction relief. The petition as assigned to Judge Lee V. Coffee, the same judge who presided over Petitioner's second trial. The post-conviction judge denied relief. Petitioner appealed, arguing that the post-conviction judge should have recused himself. The Court of Criminal Appeals affirmed, concluding that Petitioner's challenge to the judge's impartiality was waived because Petitioner failed to file a motion seeking the post-conviction judge's recusal. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the post-conviction judge should have disqualified himself under Rule of Judicial Conduct 2.11, and therefore, Petitioner was entitled to a new hearing before a different judge on his petition for post-conviction relief. View "Cook v. State" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Supreme Court held that the trial court erred in issuing a temporary injunction enjoining the State from enforcing its current construction of the eligibility requirements for absentee voting stated in Tenn. Code Ann. 2-6-201(5)(C) and (D).The injunction temporarily mandated the State to provide any eligible Tennessee voter who applies to vote by mail in order to avoid transmission or contraction of COVID-19 an absentee ballot in upcoming elections. The mandate further mandated the State to implement the construction and application of section 2-6-201(5)(C) and (D) that any qualified voter who determines it it impossible or unreasonable to vote in person at a polling place due to the COVID-19 situation shall be eligible to check the box on the absentee ballot application that the person is ill or disabled and unable to appear at the person's polling place on election day. The Supreme Court vacated the trial court's judgment, holding (1) as to persons with special vulnerability to COVID-19 or who are caretakers for such persons, the State is instructed to ensure that appropriate guidance is provided to Tennessee voters with respect to the eligibility of such persons to vote absentee by mail; and (2) as to the remaining voters, the trial court erred in issuing the temporary injunction. View "Lay v. Goins" on Justia Law

Posted in: Election Law
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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the court of criminal appeals concluding that Petitioner was entitled to postconviction relief based on trial counsel's failure to file a timely motion for new trial, holding that the postconviction court properly considered whether Petitioner was prejudiced by his trial counsel's deficiency, and the postconviction court did not err in concluding that Petitioner was not.In his postconviction petition, Petitioner claimed that his trial counsel was ineffective for failing to timely file a motion for new trial. The postconviction court concluded that trial counsel was deficient but that Petitioner was not prejudiced. The court of appeals reversed, holding that Petitioner was presumptively prejudiced by his counsel's deficiency. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) trial counsel's failure to timely file a motion for new trial does not require a presumption of prejudice, and this Court's decision to the contrary in Wallace v. State. 121 S.W.3d 652 (Tenn. 2003), is overruled; and (2) the postconviction court in this case properly denied Petitioner's request for postconviction relief. View "Howard v. State" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the court of criminal appeals reversing Defendant's conviction for voluntary manslaughter, holding that the trial court did not err in admitting acquitted-act evidence and that the portion of State v. Holman, 611 S.W.2d 411 (Tenn. 1981), holding otherwise is overruled.Holman prohibits the use of acquitted-act evidence against a defendant at a subsequent trial under all circumstances. On appeal, the court of criminal appeals held that the trial court committed reversible error in admitting evidence of a prior criminal offense for which Defendant was acquitted because the evidence should have been excluded under Holman. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) evidence of a defendant's conduct for which he was acquitted in a previous trial may be introduced in a subsequent trial on a different charge only after the evidence has met the requirements of Tenn. R. Evid. 404(b); (2) Holman is no longer good law; and (3) the trial court did not abuse its discretion in admitting the acquitted-act evidence for the limited purpose of proving Defendant's intent to harm the victim. View "State v. Jarman" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeals and reinstated the judgment of the chancery court dismissing Plaintiff's appeal from an order of protection "in nature of writ of error," holding that the writ of error is no longer a viable method of appeal.A general sessions court entered an order of protection prohibiting Plaintiff from having contact with Defendants, his ex-wife and child. Plaintiff subsequently filed an "appeal in nature of writ of error," attaching an incomplete copy of the couple's Texas divorce decree. The chancery court dismissed the action for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, finding the appeal untimely and the method of appeal obsolete, and determining that the petition for enrollment was defective on its face. The court then awarded Defendants attorney's fees and costs. The court of appeals reversed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the chancery court (1) correctly concluded that the writ of error is no longer a viable method of appeal and dismissed the appeal for lack of subject matter jurisdiction; (2) correctly dismissed Plaintiff's request to enroll the Texas decree because he provided an incomplete copy of the decree; and (3) correctly awarded Defendants attorney's fees. View "New v. Dumitrache" on Justia Law

Posted in: Family Law
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The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the court of appeals reversing the judgment of the trial court upholding the transfer of a tenured teacher (Plaintiff), working as a school administrator, to a teaching position because Plaintiff did not have an administrator license, holding that Plaintiff failed to prove that the transfer decision was not made in good faith and was arbitrary, capricious, or improperly motivated.In reversing the trial court, the court of appeals held that a regulation required the director of the school system to review the administrative duties Plaintiff had performed in the past in order to determine whether an administrator license was required, and the director's failure to do so rendered his transfer decision arbitrary and capricious. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) Plaintiff pointed to no provision in the Teacher Tenure Act that prevents a school system from establishing instructional leadership by school administrators as a priority; (2) consistent with the school system's priorities, Plaintiff was precluded from having administrative duties in the upcoming school year that involved more than fifty percent instructional leadership absent an administrator license; and (3) consequently, the director's failure to consider Plaintiff's past work did not render the transfer decision either arbitrary or capricious. View "Geller v. Henry County Board of Education" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the decisions of the court of appeals and the trial court that a municipality's personnel manual gave a firefighter a property interest entitled to due process protection, holding that Plaintiff failed to demonstrate that he had a property interest entitled to protection under either the due process clause of the United States Constitution or the law of the land clause of the Tennessee Constitution.After Plaintiff was terminated from his employment as a firefighter he filed a petition for a writ of certiorari, arguing that his due process rights were violated. The trial court concluded that Plaintiff was entitled to partial summary judgment on his due process claim, holding that the City personnel manual constituted a contract and that the termination of Plaintiff's employment was based on inappropriate procedure. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that Plaintiff failed to demonstrate that he had a property interest entitled to protection under the Tennessee or the United States Constitutions. View "Keller v. Casteel" on Justia Law